Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A pantomime on a wet Wednesday in April might seem unusual but there’s nothing here that will dampen your spirits as the brilliant Ian McKellen leads the charge in this riotous night of fantastic family fun.
Penned by Jonathan Harvey and directed by Cal McCrystal, this updated version of the panto classic tells the wholesome story of Mother Goose (Ian McKellen) and her devoted husband Vic (John Bishop), who run an animal sanctuary for loveable strays inside an abandoned Debenhams. Unfortunately, they’ve fallen on hard times, owing an energy company an eye-watering amount of money, (don’t we all); if they can’t afford to pay up, they face eviction!
Thankfully good fairy Encanta (Sharon Ballard) enters their lives, gifting them with Cilla Quack (Anna-Jane Casey), a glorious goose who lays magnificent golden eggs! However, bad fairy Malignia (Karen Mavundukure) predicts Mother Goose’s new-found riches will change her, and not for the better; here’s where the fun and frolics really begin.
Ian McKellen is an utter joy to watch, generous in his performance he gifts us with an entirely captivating turn as Mother (Caroline) Goose. Watching his performance as the family matriarch is an absolute thill as the chance to forsake everything for her ultimate dream of fame and fortune is realised. There’s reminiscing about Middle Earth days as well as nods to Shakespeare, all while the gags keep on coming.
The laughter only stops for a spot of booing, hissing and of course a few bursts of ‘he’s behind you’ in this camp, colourful creation as Mother Goose frequents A-lister events including the Oscars, the World Cup as well as London Fashion Week before ultimately realising perhaps the trappings of fame aren’t quite all they’re cracked up to be.
Playing alongside McKellen is devoted husband Vic, portrayed perfectly by John Bishop. His comic timing is of course spot on and his warmth with the audience sets us up for a great night from the opening line. The on-stage chemistry between him and McKellen is something else, they’re clearly loving every moment up there and boy does it show. Add to this magnificent mix their son Jack, played wonderfully by Oscar Conlon-Morrey, and you’ve got the perfect recipe to keep an audience in stitches all night. Conlon-Morrey is a fantastic addition to this unconventional family, throwing himself wholeheartedly into the fun of the piece while Anna-Jane Casey gives a knockout performance as Cilla Quack. Her big solo during Act II comes close to raising the roof off the Lowry’s Lyric theatre, showing true star-quality shines through even when you’re wearing orange crocs!
The leads are supported by a multi-talented company of actors who deliver Lizzi Gee’s choreography with ease and add to the feel-good factor of this show with their delightful delivery as the sanctuary’s strays. Special mention must go to Simbi Akande as Jill, her vocals are incredible while, Genevieve Nicole as Puss/Camilla will ensure we never see Camilla Parker Bowles in the same light again, here’s hoping she brings out the castanets for the Coronation!
Mother Goose is the perfect tonic, a real ensemble production with each and every person on stage giving their absolute all. If this show is available on prescription, then order me a lifetimes supply! You’ll laugh your socks off and leave the theatre grinning from ear to ear, heart warmed and serotonin levels replenished. Super, silly, feel-good fun, delivered by a world class cast, superb!