Review: MOTHER GOOSE, Theatre Royal Brighton

Running at Duke of York's Theatre from December 15th to January 29th, before going on tour

By: Dec. 11, 2022
Review: MOTHER GOOSE, Theatre Royal Brighton
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Review: MOTHER GOOSE, Theatre Royal Brighton

As a self-professed panto enthusiast, Mother Goose has never been a favourite of mine...until now. This high profile production written by Jonathan Harvey is a super smart interpretation which has been updated sympathetically for 2022 without losing the original intent.

Fronted by Ian McKellen in the titular role, Mother Goose is a story about love of all kinds, and how the search for greed and power can destroy you. Or more simply put for the kids, it's about a family of animals that work together to stop a bad 'witch' from stealing golden eggs.

It would be all too easy to focus on McKellen but - aside from the fact that I do not have the audacity to critique the performance of one of our finest all-time actors - the rest of cast shine just as brightly and deserve equal recognition. The addition of John Bishop delivers more than just ticking the panto stunt-casting box - his timing is spot on and his self-referential deprecation is charming, working excellently opposite McKellen's faux pretension.

Oscar Conlon-Morrey is known for his comedy chops so it goes without saying that's he is made for his role as Jack (or any panto, tbh) but forgive me for having not realised until now what an incredible voice he has. Happily, he gets to showcase this several times here and I was totally enamoured. Anna-Jane Casey stepping into the role of Cilla Quack has, unsurprisingly, proved to be a blessing because I can think of no-one else who could steal a scene from Ian McKellen, several times, whilst in bright orange crocs. Always a class act, even when squatting out golden eggs the size of her head.

Of all Mother Goose's motley crew of animals, a special shout out must go to Bat. I don't know how to describe the offbeat genius of Bat, both in writing and in delivery by Richard Leeming. There are no words...just go and see for yourself.

Does Mother Goose offer the production values of a Palladium panto? No. Does it suffer for it? Absolutely not. It's a smart decision by set and costume designer Liz Ascroft to retain some of the more simplistic tropes of panto in terms of props and staging, and I defy you not to adore the giant llama that looks like it's been knocked up by a 12 year old in a CDT class. The costumes adorning the animals are very smartly done, however...who doesn't love a cricket with a neon green bike helmet? It's no surprise that the cast look like they're having a ball during every minute.

In fact, the affection demonstrated on stage by the cast was undoubtedly reciprocated by the Brighton audience, and it truly felt like a room full of all types of love, both on stage and off. I'll leave you to go and watch it to see what I mean.

What struck me most was the finely tuned balance of cliched panto tropes and more original comedy. The classic panto slapstick was some of the best I've seen, and the thinly veiled digs at political leaders - whilst warranted and evoked huge cheers - were thankfully kept to a minimum. (There's only so many Liz Truss jokes one can take) But in addition to all that, there are genuine moments of pure theatrical talent - whether that be a note-perfect rendition of a popular song or a rather special monologue moment...

It's almost impossible to convey the whimsy, heart, humour and skill that underpins this production without giving away major spoilers. As I said to the press team during the interval, Mother Goose is the perfect blend of star power and classic musical theatre talent. A total hoot from start to finish.

Mother Goose is at Duke of York's Theatre from December 15 to January 29 2023, then touring

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan


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