It's Panto time! This means sing-a-longs that go wrong, girls who dress as boys who like boys who dress as girls and kids screaming "Behind you" or "You’re holding its hand!" This time round for the citizens of ‘Oldhamia’, the Coliseum brings us the much loved tale of Mother Goose.
I have to admit that Christmas pantomimes don’t exactly hold a special place in my heart. Musicals? Love 'em!. Slapstick too if it is done right. Knowing cultural references, yes please. However many pantomimes simply fail to blend these elements together seamlessly and I tend to get a bemused look on my face. Eyebrows knotted, a quick glance round to gauge the reactions of my companions.
Yet in truth, Mother Goose is a charming, fast paced panto that beams out at you from the stage and gets you to beam right back. It tells the story of the poor household of Billy (Richard J Fletcher), Colin (Amy Rhiannon Worth), Mother Goose (Fine Time Fontayne) and Priscilla (the goose, if you didn’t know). Completing the neighbourhood is their landlord Squire Squander (Patrick Bridgman) and his daughter Jill (Nicole Evans), the object of Colin’s affections. Twists and turns in the plot come thanks to the meddling of the good Fairy Feathers (Linzi Matthews, also Priscilla) and the evil Demon of Discontent (Andonis Anthony); cue entrances with fireworks and addressing us in rhymes.
The performances are all likeable; particularly Anthony’s dark and sparkly homage to Tim Curry, Matthews’ great voice combined with cheeky wit and Bridgman’s equally funny turns as Squire Squander and King of Gooseland. The principals are complemented by the poised and professional chorus of young girls as villagers, servants and sprites.
Some of the fun from Panto is things going wrong though, isn’t it? Fontayne makes plenty of gaffs as Mother Goose but endearingly excuses himself: it is first night after all. I do wish his dame had a higher pitched voice but his La Cage aux Folles meets Stars In Their Eyes rendition of "I Am What I Am" is superb, as is his Greek dancing which saved the smashing plates scene.
All the stops are pulled out in Kevin Shaw’s production to please the almost full house. Eric Potts’ script has plenty of drag references and local jokes which go down a storm. Dave Bintley’s recognisable song choices are wildly diverse; ranging from old favourites Grease and Disney to current chart toppers Beyonce and Alexandra Burke. The sound effects are fun especially during the big fight scene in the Demon’s lair.
Equally impressive are Celia Perkins’ amazing costumes with classy red, blue and white polka dots and stripes for the majority of characters and a spectacularly silly wardrobe for Mother Goose. My favourite of the dame’s couture was a fabulous night time themed dress complete with furry sheep.
All in all, I’m not sure I’ll need another dose of Panto this season or else that scrunched up face of mine might reappear but Mother Goose really did shake its tail feather and I think I liked it.