Smartly shifting the focus of the familiar fairytale, New International Encounter’s Snow White unfolds as a playful but unusually nuanced storytelling session. This is the company’s fourth Christmas show for Cambridge Junction, and it’s an undeniably slick piece, packed with humour, emotion, and exquisitely-timed nods to the audience, all set to Joey Hickman’s dreamily atmospheric live score.
Here, Jodie Davey’s plucky but stifled Snow White yearns to escape her overbearing, infantilising stepmother’s shadow, fleeing into the forest and stumbling into a numerically-challenged collective of radical vegans. Abayomi Oniyide struggles with his conscience as an in-over-his-head gamekeeper who never stops looking for the woman he abandoned in the woods.
Unexpectedly, though, it’s Stefanie Mueller’s wonderfully complex Wicked Stepmother who provides the story’s heart, humanising the homicidally vain aristocrat with a real sense of emotional frailty. The isolation of her cold and austere palace couldn’t be further from the blanket-strewn cosiness of Snow’s woodland yurt.
The set – also by Mueller – is simple but effective, turning a few sliding stands of twigs, some yarn, and a floor length mirror frame into a richly realised, storybook world.
Director Alex Byrne invests it all with energy and movement. Props descend from the rafters and performers scramble through the audience, obliterating the boundaries of the already-intimate staging. If the charm starts to wear just a little thin during a padded and overly repetitive second half, it all ends on a well-earned note of pure, redemptive warmth.