Mother Goose is absolutely quackers!
Photo by Manuel Harlan
The madcap pantomime is bonafide fun in every traditional sense of the word.
For a start, the show is set in an old high street Debenhams where Caroline Goose (Ian McKellen), her husband Vic (John Bishop) and son Jack (Oscar Conlon-Morrey) live and run their animal sanctuary for waifs and strays.
That is, until the evil energy company (here you shout back “the energy company!” with as much disgust as you can muster) threatens their home. Luckily, Anna Jane Casey - as a Croc wearing goose - enters stage left, zips into the splits and introduces herself as Cilla Quack before dropping a golden egg that pays the debt.
But fortune is not enough for our Mother Goose who has always sought stardom. She makes a deal with a disguised evil fairy (Karen Mavundukure has great pipes as Malignia), much to the disgust of the good fairy (a sweet Sharon Ballard as Encanta) and trades Cilla back to Gooseland in exchange for a shot at worldwide fame and acclaim.
The full cast carry Jonathan Harvey's book - almost free entirely of Christmas references and instead peppered with social commentary discussing everything from Gary Linekar to Kim Kardashian. In a messy kitchen scene, an enthusiastic Jack attempts to bake a cake but instead greases his mother’s bottom and does a few turns on top of the oven whilst fighting off a pig puppet, called Boris. As Vic despairs with his son, Caroline quips that the most stupid often end up running the country. They're easy jokes but land triumphantly.
Liz Ascroft's marvelous costumery and sets bring joy to the stage and becomes synonymous with the larger than life characters. McKellen parades in kitten heels and racy lingerie before climbing into a comically oversized bed she shares with her beaver, Justin. Wearing a boyish yellow palette, Jack gets his breakdancing Scouts badge by dancing with the posse of animals: among them, a green cricket wearing large cricket pads, a circus chimpanzee in striped tights, and a deadpan bat looking awkwardly nude at times. Coming into fortune Vic is given a makeover which involves a provocative black leather corset and skirt - a stark difference to the bright garish garters that our dame wears.
Photo by Manuel Harlan
It could be argued that the show is written mainly for the older generation, and specifically theatre-goers at that. McKellen of course manages to sneak in some Shakespeare and a couple of lines of "Tomorrow" and these are moments that really do feel special for a night at the theatre. Comically, the foreboding music is ripped from The Lord of the Rings. In Gooseland, Casey treats us to a stunning rendition of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” as she escapes from her cell (she was of course, prisoner 24601). There’s even an appearance from a certain Queen Consort (a quick moving Genevieve Nicole) who sings ABBA's "Money Money Money" whilst playing the castanets. Why? 'Gin.'
Jack however, tosses himself all through the night as he sings to his lover; a perfectly suited Jill played by Simbi Akande with excellent comedic timing as she throws herself off benches in the classic ghosts and ghoulies scene.
However, there’s plenty for a younger or more naïve audience. The show is an absolute hoot. Inflatable footballs and thrown into the crowd, waterguns are fired from the aisles, sweets are thrown from the stage and fairies are summoned through clapping. And that's the most dignified part of the proceedings!
Mother Goose plays at Curve, Leicester, before continuing on tour