If you have never been to a pantomime, Mother Goose is a good one to get you started.
What makes this pantomime so special is the superlative all round performance by the entire ensemble. The basic tale of Mother Goose is about a goose breeder, Mother Goose, and her son Billy, trying to make ends meet, that is until her kindness to take in a goose, pays dividends, when that goose starts laying golden eggs. What follows is human frailty, vanity and greed, and of course a happy ending.
The story is stuffed, of course, with anecdotes and tart lines of current events, which spice up the narratives and fatten up the goose story. To give the show local colour, it is set in Hackneytopia.
Susie McKenna, the write-director of the show, is also the evil witch, Vanity. Her ‘evil’ cackle elicited the desired response from the audience, young and old. One of the amusing quips uttered by her is ‘You know nothing Jon Snow’ followed by ‘I always wanted to say that’. Fighting off the bad witch is Sharon D Clarke’s Charity, the good witch, Vanity’s sister. Family rivalry? On stage, there is little tension but lots of fun.
The star of the show is of course Mother Goose in the form of Clive Rowe. Rowe’s Dame is literally larger than all – bosom and exquisite voice to match so as to dominate the show. Rowe’s costumes, and there are lots of them, are delightfully gaudy and grotesquely attractive. His puffy cheeks are buffed up with a shiny burgundy Ping-Pong shapes and eyebrows to match.
Mother Goose humorously touched on Lord Sugar, Guardian readers, the Scottish referendum, Phones 4U, Jeremy Kyle and other topics, some drawing greater laughter than others. When the exquisitely hideous giant vulture appears, Mother Goose says ‘I told you, I’m not voting Ukip’ then turn to the audience and in a matriarchal tone says: ‘That Nigel Farage gets everywhere’. The audience loved it.
Abigail Rosser as Princess Jill and Matt Dempsey as Prince Jack give stupendous performances. Last but not least among the fine acting is Alix Ross’s Priscilla, the Goose. Her very presence, dance and gestures are not only endearing but draw the desired affectionate response from the audience.
All the traditional elements of panto are there, including: ‘It’s behind you’ and the refrain ‘oh no it’s not’, throwing sweets into the stalls and gallery, booing the villain and egging on the good guys.
Mother Goose, first performed in 1906, has been revived annually as a seasonal event. Having seen it for the first time, I can see why this traditional entertainment is keenly maintained.
- Director and writer: Susie McKenna
- Cast includes: Clive Rowe, Sharon D Clarke, Susie McKenna, Kat B. Matt Dempsey, Darren Hart, , Alix Ross, Abigail Rosser Tony Timberlake
- Hackney Empire Theatre, London
- Until Sunday 4 January 2015
- Time: 19.00
- Review by Rivka Jacobson
- 28 November 2014
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