Maybe I caught a particularly rough performance of Carousel Theatre’s Snow White. At the Saturday matinee I attended, the audience was small and there were a lot of adults, which could partly explain why the show didn’t come close to generating the kind of runaway energy it seemed to be aiming for.
Productions of Greg Banks’s script in Toronto and Winnipeg have received good reviews, but I find it hard to imagine the text would ever look much better than it does here. Snow White’s two actors spend a lot of time setting up the convention that they’re going to play all the characters themselves. And, even once they get going, they interrupt the action to remind us that’s they’re doing. This show-offy meta perspective didn’t work for me. I didn’t want the actors to tell us they were going to dazzle us with their skills, I wanted them to get on with doing it.
The text is larded with knock-knock jokes, which can be funny when you’re sharing them with young friends, but got no laughs from the tough crowd I was part of.
So the script is flawed in my opinion and, in this production, director Jennica Grienke makes things worse by establishing a relentlessly energetic performance style that becomes a kind of forcefield that repels engagement. Katrina Teitz, whose baseline character is Snow White, and Carly Pokaradi, whose home character is Four (their number in the short-miner brigade) attack virtually the whole script at a fever pitch. It’s not their fault; style is a directorial call. But it gets exhausting. The one exception I can think of comes in a scene between Snow White and the woodsman whom Snow White’s jealous stepmother has charged with murdering Snow White. For a few welcome moments, the actors slow down and play the emotion of the scene.
Making music on their accordion, MJ Coomber is a welcome onstage presence. Monica Emme’s storybook-bold set and props are pleasing, and so are Emily Friesen’s costumes, which use embroidery to hint at the fairytale’s German origins.
I wasn’t the only one who was bored. Three adults in my line of sight fell asleep. One little girl of about three was interested, God bless her. The only other child I could see was too young to have any idea what was going on. There were several other kids behind me, but they were largely silent.
SNOW WHITE By Greg Banks. Directed by Jennica Grienke. On Saturday, December 16. A Carousel Theatre for Young People production playing at the Waterfront Theatre until December 31. Tickets
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