The idea behind Smile Darkly’s production of Snow White is to explore the well-known story by placing it within a parody of modern day celebrity culture: a world where the evil queen becomes has-been beauty queen Deb White, and Snow White is born out of necessity to keep her mother’s name in the tabloids. A musical comedy, boasting 34 characters played by five actors, the company set high expectations by describing the retelling as “a Python-esque journey on the back of Rocky Horror’s motorcycle to dizzying heights of hilarity”.

And indeed my expectations were high when I walked into the theatre at the Latest Music Bar, as it appeared to be the perfect venue for a fairy tale. The bar is dimly lit by candles and fairy lights and the walls resemble the ‘It’s a Small World’ ride at Disneyland, complete with silhouetted buildings and lit windows. The first scenes of the show are promising: the cast make an energetic ensemble and the show bursts into life with orange jumpsuits and wigs galore. Lisa Depuis is energetic, charismatic and engaging as fading Page 3 starlet Deb White, clearly drawing influence from Joanna Lumley in Ab Fab and, when volume issues allowed, demonstrating her belter of a voice.

Unfortunately for a show that contains a large number of songs, there is next to no amplification for the cast’s voices and, although I was only sitting two rows away from the stage, I could only catch the occasional line from any given song. While with fringe venues the show’s merit should not be held accountable to technical difficulties, the fact that 90% of lyrics were lost makes it very difficult to assess their quality.

This is, however, just one element of this production that makes the overall impact of the piece clumsy, awkward and on occasion just offensive. The cast on the whole are competent performers; however, the script is poor and gets itself easily confused between facilitating stereotypes and media representation and parodying them. Snow White is given no character at all and, though I’m sure this is intended as a comment on the media’s reduction of character depth to ‘fifteen-minuters, it comes across as simply bad writing. The company unfortunately cross the line from farce into haphazard mess on more than one occasion and my patience ran out with the line “Don’t make me get Pistorius on your ass”.

Although there are moments of light in some genuinely shrewd observations on media representation, they are buried beneath messy staging, awkward line slip-ups and unintelligible music. Depuis’s performance saves this production for me, but I would urge the company to trim down the show’s length and number of characters, to and focus on really slick staging, more developed characters and finer-tuned performances – quality over quantity.

Snow White: The Whole Grimm Affair played as part of the Brighton Fringe. It next performs at the IYAF Kingston from 17-25 July and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 1-13 August. For more information see the Brighton Fringe website.