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Mother Goose (Nottingham Playhouse)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Kenneth Alan Taylor, as writer and director, chalks up his twenty-seventh consecutive winter season at the Nottingham Playhouse and comes pretty close to pantomime perfection with Mother Goose. It is this old warhorse’s favourite panto and it shows.

Ma Goose is nothing like the traditional dame. Naturally the laughs and the outrageous costumes have their part to play but this lady has flaws as well as frocks. She is a real human being capable of feelings that go much deeper than the make-up and John Elkington brings her to life brilliantly in his thirteenth panto in Nottingham.

In fact this is a real team effort once again with six out of the nine principals returning to the Playhouse for this seasonal treat, together with a winning team behind the scenes to keep the magic flowing. Jason Taylor’s lighting design sparkles as always while John Morton is a fixture in the pit as MD and Ciaron McKenna’s sound design ensures this is one show at this tricky auditorium where you can actually hear what’s happening on stage throughout.

However, it is Tim Meacock’s set and costume designs that make this show particularly appealing. From his opening set at the Funfair through the Hall of Mirrors, a sumptuous Hotel De Posh and Witch Bane’s spooky and cobweb strewn Lair this whole production is a visual treat. Mother Goose was first performed in 1906 and alongside the sets Tim keeps that Edwardian feel with some outstanding costumes which would all have looked familiar to the audiences of a century ago.

That mood is carried by the music which, while including a fair selection of chart hits and golden oldies, also incorporates “period pieces” such as The Boyfriend’s Sur La Plage and, as the songsheet number, Sons Of The Sea which had the audience and the youngsters bobbing up and down in their seats like corks on the briny.

This year’s newcomers were Adam Barlow as an endearing and very Northern Billy Goose with Miriam Elwell-Sutton as Principal Boy Colin, incongruously with a Scots accent, and Nicole Webb who gave us a mostly mute Priscilla the Goose – mostly because she somehow managed to gain a voice to sing along with the songs.

Anthony Hoggard, fast becoming a Playhouse fixture, was paired with Jonathan Race’s Evil Eric as Squire Squelch, and a fine pair of grotesques they turned out to be, while Alexandra James grew in stature as Wicked Witch Bane and Rebecca Little made a twenty-four carat Golden Fairy.

Mother Goose reverses the usual pantomime tradition of the heroes ending up as wealthy as well as wed and perhaps for that reason is never as commercially appealing as Cinderella, Aladdin and their ilk but this production is a real family pleaser and deserves to put bums on seats throughout the festive season.

- Nick Brunger


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