Sunday, 18 January 2009

Mother Goose The Pier Pavilion, South Shields

Mother Goose by Jon Parker & Mark Fairweather
Director: Gareth Hunter
Reviewer: Ian Cain

Dispel all thoughts of the credit crunch with a traditional family pantomime that certainly won’t be painful on the pocket and is guaranteed to brighten the most dismal and dark of January nights. The Westovians, are renowned in South Tyneside for the quality of their Christmas shows, and this year they are treating audiences to their version of Mother Goose.

The story centres around the impoverished Dame Goose and her two sons, ‘Silly’ Billy and Colin, who are struggling to make ends meet and keep up with the rent increases constantly imposed by the greedy Squire. However, a kindly Fairy Godmother is watching over the unfortunate family and decides to intervene. She bestows upon them a magical goose, called Priscilla, who has the ability to lay golden eggs and could provide the possibility of solving all their problems. Just one catch – the vain Dame decides to trade the bird to the evil Demon King in exchange for beauty beyond measure.

The dotty Dame is brilliantly played by Stephen Sullivan, who contorts his face into an array of grotesque expressions to portray the thoughts and feelings of the character. His energy levels are equally matched by his entertainment value and outrageous costumes. Craig Richardson is outstanding as ‘Silly’ Billy and he strikes up an instant rapport with the kids in the audience right from his first scene. His skilful performance gives Billy a simple, likeable quality that grows throughout the show. He displays his mastery at physical clowning in the slapstick cake-baking scene, with the Dame, in which he has eggs broken into his face and gets covered in flour and cream.

Kylie Ford is the thigh-slapping principal boy, Colin, who is out to win the heart of Jill, the Squire’s niece. Playing the straight-part of the romantic hero in panto is no mean feat, but Kylie nails the role and is especially good in the hysterical money-lending routine that is one highlight in a show filled with them. Carol Cooke gives her interpretation of the kindly, but care-worn Fairy Happiness who feels that she has been called upon for one panto too many. Although her character bemoans the demands made on Fairy Godmother’s at this time of the year, she is steadfast in ensuring that goodness prevails over evil.

Mark Lamb is fantastic as the Demon King and really demonstrates his star quality in the musical numbers, Easy Street and, most notably I Wanna Be Evil. His scenes in the second act with Ruth Burn as the Queen of Gooseland, who is slightly under-utilised, are also sheer brilliance. In addition to the sterling performances of the principals, there are some great supporting characters. Adrian Jackson is the skinflint Squire, Nick Pringle and James Lockwood play brokers men Ad and Lib, Karen Bays is Jill, Becca Wood is the Queen of Eternal Youth and Beauty and Bethany Walker is Priscilla the Goose.

Gareth Hunter directs a pantomime that delivers everything it promises and much more, too. Filled with slap-stick comedy sketches, Benny Hill-style chases and great gags, the entertainment was eloquently summed-up by a patron on her way out who said: “Well, that was well worth the money.” bIt’s an excellent show – see it if you can!

Mother Goose runs util the 24th January 2009
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