The festive season is upon us and award winning comedy trio, The Sleeping Trees return to Theatre 503 for their third pantomime, Scrooge And The Seven Dwarves. This time they tell the tale of a Wicked Witch, who has stolen the world’s festive cheer, and Mrs Claus must turn to the most unlikely of heroes to regain it…Ebenezer Scrooge. With the help of Snow White, and a bizarre mix of fairytale characters…can Scrooge gain enough Christmas cheer to save the holiday season?

The premise of the play is familiar, with three actors who incompetently ‘forgot’ to book the 30 actors for their extravagant pantomime, and now have to play all the roles themselves. They drag a seemingly unaware audience member to play the music, (composer, Ben Hales) and frantically attempt to make a masterpiece with just themselves and the audience. The additional pressure is that there is a big shot casting director in the audience who is looking for the next big thing, so the actors need to be on top of their game if they want to make it into a Hollywood film.

The production follows the traditional pantomime conventions, with several “he’s behind you” moments, numerous ad libs with the audience and a catchy pop song. However, with flair and creativity in its writing, along with some truly memorable musical numbers, it feels fresh, fast paced and – most importantly – hilarious. We meet festive favourites such as Tiny Tim, as well as some unexpected cameos from various Disney classics. The most memorable perhaps being a love-struck Mary Poppins, singing an ingenious ballad about her confusing emotions.

Zhara Mansouri’s set design is simplistic but inventive and creates a necessary distinction between colourful Fairytale Land and dreary Old Victorian London. Simon Evans’ direction is snappy and sharp. The cast-audience relationship is important and the intimate space is used effectively in echoing that. The production is certainly not slick and seamless; however, it only amplifies the chaotic and gloriously frantic nature of the piece. The actors’ ad libbing is not overdone, and their personalities come across well when relishing in the chaos of the world they have created.

Joshua George Smith, John Woodburn and James Dunnell-Smith are sublime in their portrayal of the several characters. With huge physicality, buoyant characterisation and sensational chemistry, the production whizzes by. The trio are speedily becoming one of the best sketch-comedy groups around in my opinion, and with a predicted five different shows (yes, 5!) at next year’s Edinburgh Fringe they are sure to keep audiences laughing. To use an ancient cliché, there really is something for all the family in this show. It’s pantomime with a jaunty twist and an intelligent exuberance. Even the biggest pantomime cynic would find enjoyment in this infectiously fun production.

Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves is playing at Theatre 503 till January 9 2017.

Photo: David Monteith-Hodge