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Mother Goose (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: Mother Goose

Society: Hackney Empire Ltd

Venue: Hackney Empire. 291 Mare Street, London E8 1EJ

Credits: Author: Will Brenton. Director Clive Rowe. Produced by Hackney Empire Productions

Type: Sardines

Mother Goose

2 stars

Image: Billy Goose (Kat B) and Priscilla the Goose (Ruth Lynch). Photo by Manuel Harlan

Hackney has a culture all of its own and as a visitor from Catford, and the other side of the tracks – sorry, river – its pantomime always makes me feel a bit of an outsider. This year’s rather pedestrian effort was no exception.

We’re in Hackney Woods where Will Brenton weaves a somewhat contrived story about a beauty parlour, run by kindly Mother Goose (Clive Rowe). Then alas, acquiring a source of wealth from her pet goose’s golden eggs, she is seduced into the idea that she wants to be beautiful. And, of course, although she succeeds and gets glamorous, that is never going to work out well.

Of course fabulous Clive Rowe is good, sings strongly and, as director, does his very best to hold it together and Kat B, as ever, is charismatically rueful and funny as Billy Goose. Otherwise, I’m afraid it limps along with a lot of mis-pacing.

For example, there are several spotlight solo numbers which are well enough sung but are overlong for this context and feel like time fillers. Then there’s a very peculiar scene giving us the history of Hackney Empire – 120 years old this year – which, although quite interesting, is totally out of place here.

Worst of all is the way this cast – almost all of them – mis-time dozens of jokes so that they fall repeatedly flat. Even the slosh scene, which brings an “audience member” (I have my suspicions) on stage is tame. The timing of gags is a pretty basic pantomime skill so this is puzzling.

Rebecca Parker looks good (lots of leggy height and glittery black) and sings well as Demon Queen but her speech is blurred and often inaudible which is down, presumably, partly to her delivery and partly to iffy sound management. Tony Marshall is moderately funny as the exaggeratedly East End  Squire Purchase (and I like the punning name) and Holly Mallet is feisty as Jill Purchase.

Meanwhile the four piece band, led by Alex Maynard, is doing a grand job at the front. There is, for example, some lovely guitar work from Charlie Laffer.

There were some enthusiastic adult insiders laughing very loudly and supportively in the press night audience and relatively few children. The boy – maybe 8 – who was the only child in my row sat impassive throughout.


First published by Sardines:

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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