Theatre Replacement, York Theatre, Until January 6th

Photo: Emily Cooper

My Two Pence

By Penny Warwick


The opening night of the East Van Panto saw the Executive Director of the Cultch, Heather Redfern, proudly proclaiming that this is now the fifth presentation of the festive favourite. She went on to say that the East Van Panto is now an annual tradition in the city – and it is definitely my kind of tradition. Having only experienced my first East Van Panto last year I can tell you this year’s is bigger, brighter and more bolshy.


Snow White (Ming Hudson) is our heroine, a poor soul who is trapped in a bourgeoisie mansion in West Vancouver, helplessly looking out of her window and dreaming about being able to go to a magical place – known as East Van – where adults queue for artisan eats, where furniture left on the street is not garbage, and a place where most importantly she can escape from the evil capture of her stepmother (an expert turn by pantomime royalty Allan Zynik). She decides that she will run away and find a new family to live with. Of her adventures en-route my favourite appearance happened when she faced off with The Internet Troll (played by Amy Rutherford who is truly hilarious) under the Iron Workers Bridge. He rolls onstage on his office chair angrily typing away and stating “White Privilege is a myth”. The scene and characature is so perfect, giving a clever modern update to the trope of the troll under the bridge. There are ‘adult’ moments hidden-in-plain-sight throughout which give the East Van Panto the bite it needs to engage the experienced crowd, one particularly naughty reference involving the Japadog performing a ‘trick’… no spoilers. Updates to the story include an explanation of the Dwarves and Snow White’s names, carefully dealing with contentious elements of this classic tale with humour and grace.


The cast is fabulous. Chirag Naik as the hapless Heimlich as well as the leader of the Seven Dwarves has great presence and timing. Margaret Onedo and Evan Rein have some fantastic moments to shine in the show. Amy Rutherford is a standout. The involvement of the younger cast members is seamless. Snow (Hudson) and Evil Stepmom (Zynik) have the grandeur to their characters needed to carry the story.


It would be remiss to discuss the panto without going into greater detail on the production/creative team. The beautifully painted set pieces are incredible (Scenic Illustrator Laura Zerebeski and Set Designer Yvan Morissette) and work perfectly with the garish costumes and expert lighting (Marina Szijarto and Adrian Muir, respectively). The music composed by Veda Hille is a wonderful barrage of modern-pop-rock-mash-ups. I adored seeing the ‘orchestra’ sharing the stage (and often sharing in the action), and Ben Elliott and Todd Biffard’s "Introduction/Instructions to the Audience" at the beginning of the show are comedic and musical perfection. Needless to say, Mark Chavez has written another great show, and the direction by Anita Rochon is spot on.

As a Brit I am very particular when it comes to panto, Theatre Replacement not only meets the standards it exceeds them with ease. I would venture to say even nay-sayers of pantomime could be turned by the energy and wit of this production. If you only make it to one Christmas show this year this should be it.