“Money can’t buy you love” sings the cast in the finale of Abigail Anderson’s production of Mother Goose. As befits a historic theatre, the inspiration for Daniel O’Brien’s script is 19th century in flavour. The title role – the only one of all the pantomime stories where the Dame is the main character with the whole plot revolving around her decisions – was a favourite Dan Leno vehicle. These days, it’s something of a rarity.
In proper Victorian style, we have our arguing immortals – Emma Thornett as Fairy Fortuna (later to be Housekeeper Happy) and Simon Nock as Demon Discordo (translated into Lord Foiegras as he attempts to win his wager about money, beauty and power). Their rhyming couplets do go on a bit for the youngest members of the audience but are necessary to set the scene. Thornett is properly and prettily fussy and Nock revels in his villainy and the audience boos it earns.
Gooseland is inhabited, among others, by Squire Dither (Michael Cahill) who certainly lives up to his name and his son Colin (Gareth Bennett-Ryan). Colin’s in love with Gretchen, a blonde pigtailed lass over from Germany to learn English (Eleanor Brown). A neat compliment to Helga Brandt, the theatre’s former heritage officer, perhaps?
The set and costumes by Will Hargreaves are extremely good with some especially appropriate outfits for Dennis Herdman in the title role. He carries off the long part with its shifts of mood from the penurious but warm-hearted widow to a selfish wealthy one and would-be young and beautiful vamp. The hard-working goose Priscilla is Claire Baldry.
Musically Thomas Turner works wonders from the pit, with a blend of established numbers and Peter White’s original score. There’s fleet-footed choreography for the dance numbers by Nikki Woollaston and some engaging chorus work by pupils of the Hazelwood Dance Studios with a particularly smart tap routine in which Priscilla joins. Old favourites included among the gags are the ‘it’s behind you” one.