Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs/Swan Theatre, Worcester

TAKING into account the evil queen’s sour chewing-on-a-wasp expression, it’s a wonder why anyone would risk taking a bite out of that dodgy apple.

But as we know, folklore dictates otherwise, and Snow White does just that, thereby confirming her image of sullied innocence. And don’t we love it – oh yes, we most certainly do.

This year’s Swan panto has undoubtedly benefited from the reputation it’s gained throughout the last few years. And the current production, directed by Ben Humphrey, is most surely up there with the best of them.

Powered along by musical director Rick Godsall’s rock steady team, the soundtrack ensures that the required breakneck pace is maintained for what proves to be an amazing three hours of seat-of-your-pants entertainment.

Long before such matters hogged the headlines, panto has always featured men ‘identifying’ as women.

And Humphrey also introduces further nods in the direction of modernity, such as Queen Grizelda’s use of an Alexa, in this case the redoubtable Imelda Staunton as the Voice of the Magic Mirror.

Gruesome Griz is played with the usual mega levels of absurdity by John-Robert Partridge, formerly a man, but now indentified as a boos-blasted buxom burden of a beast dressed in black.

Another new development is Humphrey’s decision to turn Wilf William’s prince into a royal buffoon with a speech impediment. This is, at first, slightly confusing.

Why would our delectable heroine lumber herself with the regal equivalent of Frank Spencer? But it all soon becomes clear when she pops her cork for Tom Riddell’s huntsman.

Far from being some hooray henry chasing small furry animals, he turns out to be a vegetarian who just pursues… vegetables. Yes, really.

Genevieve Lowe is tremendous in the starring role, a sheer natural as she hops and struts about like a starling on a bird table, occasionally stopping to trill and twitter her little heart away.

The Worcester Rep’s annual outing would not be complete without further additions to the roster of idiots, and Oliver Brooks and Charlie Ryan as Muddles and Herman the Henchman are indeed a fine pair of fools that never disappoint.

Elsewhere, Heidi Gowthorpe’s fantastically fragrant Fair Fabulous fends off every instance of foul play, while Humphrey himself reprises the now legendary role of Dame Ginny to the sound of tumultuous affection and gasps of nervous laughter.

No Worcestershire Christmas would be complete without the Swan panto, and this year’s exercise in festive madness and mayhem can justifiably be regarded as kick-starting the season.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs until January 5 and there’s absolutely no excuse for not seeing it. Oh no, there isn’t!

John Phillpott