MIRROR, mirror on the wall, who has the fairest panto of all?

Well, The Customs House, with a brilliantly energetic and thigh-slapping version of Snow White, the first panto performed at the venue 25 years ago.

And what a show to celebrate such a milestone.

Snow White is everything you would expect and want from a panto, and so much more besides. Expertly crafted by writers Ray Spencer and Graeme Thompson, the show is a joy from start to finish.

From the overture to the last notes of the rousing finale, Dame Bella Ballcock, her idiot son Arbuthnot, Snow White, Prince Charming, the Evil Queen and the rest of the cast had a packed, raucous audience eating out of their hand.

Dame Bella, saucily played by Ray, leads the way and his magical panto partnership with Davey Hopper (Arbuthnot) is just getting better and better. They clearly enjoy performing together, both have a razor sharp ability to ad-lib to hilarious effect and their energy and timing is faultless.

And they are backed by a perfect cast. Annie Guy plays a modern-day Snow White who isn’t content with doing the household chores for her seven new friends. She has a wonderfully clear, powerful voice and makes the most of all of her songs, as does leading man Dale Jewitt who plays Jon Snow lookalike the Prince of the North. Their duets are a real highlight.

Steven Lee Hamilton was once a perfect, chisel-jawed leading man. Now he’s an even better baddie. His performance as the Evil Queen deserves some sort of award. His delivery is brilliant, his disdain for the other characters – and the audience – wonderfully pitched, and boy can he sing!

Charlie Raine as the signing skunk Sniffy and Luke Maddison as her sidekick Whiffy provide plenty of laughs and audience interaction, while Bethan Amber as the Evil Queen’s sister Minerva had real stage presence and provided – for me – the musical highlight of the whole show.

A special mention must go to the youngsters who played the seven Minor Miners. Superbly choreographed by Jacqui West and voiced by members of the cast, each of these young performers gave their all, imbuing each of their characters with real personality.

Of course they were helped, as were all of the performers, by the immaculate costumes of Paul Shriek and Matt Fox. The Evil Queen’s costume in particular, is just amazing.

There’s the usual hilarious slosh scene, some great one-liners (including one about a sweaty Prince), and a genuine warmth about Snow White that will plaster a smile on any Scrooges or Grinches this Christmas.

It is apt that in such an important anniversary year, Snow White and its mightily-impressive hard working cast deliver one of the best panto’s ever performed at the venue. If you’re going to see one show this Christmas, do yourself a favour and make sure it’s ‘The Little Panto with the Big Heart.’

It’s no surprise that shows are selling out fast, and the only question that really needs answering is how will Ray and Graeme better this show with Rapunzel next year.

Rob Lawson