Writer/Director: Paul Hendy
Musical Director: Nathan Jarvis
Choreographer: Sarah Langley
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
Everybody kind of dreams of adopting the goose that lays golden eggs and the hapless Mother Goose is no exception. When seven feet of adorable picture-book perfect “Eggle” (don’t ask, just blame Marshall on the front row) comes into her life, she imagines that all her hopes of happiness, wealth, beauty and slimline stature will be realised.
But hey, hang on a minute, this is panto-land. There’s always a fairy to grant those wishes that are worthy; a baddie trying to put a spanner in the works; a beautiful girl seeking a husband; and of course, “the fat bloke in a dress” to make us all laugh. The Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield has all these ingredients and more once again this festive season, drawing in large audiences who know that they are in for their annual treat from Evolution Productions.
From the moment the talented ensemble dancers/singers enter through the aisles, it’s non-stop entertainment. Damien Williams reprises his role as the dame (aka Mother Goose this year) for the tenth time at the Lyceum, and on the night of the review a special presentation was made to him by the theatre and show directors to mark his efforts. Fairy Goodfeather, who spends most of her time hovering about ten feet off the ground, is played robustly by Lisa Davina Phillip with big hair and a thick Jamaican accent, and she’s responsible for sourcing Eggle from ‘the Beak District’. Baddie Demon Vanity is all huge ego and tight leather trousers, and Jake Canuso in the role is perfect, strutting and gyrating around the stage, flicking his cape behind him. The scene where he and Mother Goose, dressed identically as far as shape permits, act out mirror images is hilarious. Billy and Charlie Goose, Jill and the Squire (Andy Day, Dylan Craig, Cara Dudgeon and Adam Price respectively) provide extra comedy and love interest, to make up the complete pantomime package. The purple team of young dancers took to the stage on the night of the review, a lovely smiley bunch of girls, who will surely be ably replicated in the other juvenile teams.
The set consists of beautifully painted backcloths with country scenes that you feel you could walk into, edged by effective colour and mood changing lighted panels all around the stage, and a turning windmill adds depth. The costumes are the classic panto style with plenty of pretty dresses, Lycra for the gym and spa scene, adorned jackets and waistcoats bedecked with glitter, alongside outrageous get-ups for the “fat bloke” – Screme Eggs, bathtime ducks, velour tracksuit and a flamingo all have to be seen to be believed … Not forgetting the baby goose outfits for the small dancers that are soooo sweet.
As always in Sheffield, the highlight of the festive show is the chosen special effect for the year. Without giving too much away, 3D specs are handed out this time (oh, and an umbrella would be useful …) As Mother Goose soars around on her stuffed bird, it’s impossible to not duck and dive along with her.
Mother Goose is not maybe the most exciting (merely egg-citing?) of pantomimes, as it seems to lack some of the magic and splendour of say, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, but it’s a classic tale, and illustrates for young and old that riches are not the way to happiness. The feelgood factor shines through, all that matters, in the end, is family, friends, health and happiness, with a smattering of “Positive Thinking”. There aren’t too many singalong songs this year, but plenty of opportunities to clap and shout about the ghost (extra large size) “behind you” – “oh no, it isn’t” – and the concealed smutty jokes are lurking for the grown-ups. Spend an evening in Mother Goose’s company; the whole cast is wonderfully energetic, upbeat and talented. It’ll lift your spirits, set you up for Christmas, whatever your age, and give you a glow which makes you feel all is well in the world as long as theatre make-believe exists.
Runs until Sunday 7 January 2018 | Image: Robert Day