Mother Goose, Wales Millennium Centre

March 30, 2023 by

I was looking forward to seeing Mother Goose enormously. This production had attracted a lot of press attention when it was announced, as it stars Sir Ian McKellen as Mother Goose, and was scripted by Jonathan Harvey, best known for the play (1993) and film (1996) Beautiful Thing, his BBC TV sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme (1999-2001), and his always-wonderful episodes for Coronation Street (ongoing). Thus anticipation was high. I was expecting an outrageously funny postmodern treat.



Jane Casey



Truth to tell this is on the whole rather standard panto fayre. The dame undergoes a series of costume changes, increasingly fabulous. There is slapstick humour as well as more adult jokes. There is singing and dancing. There is audience participation (including of course “It’s behind you!”). Sweets are thrown into the audience (I got a mini Milky Way). All was present and correct, and the audience lapped it up – and I certainly haven’t seen the WMC that full for a while.

Sir Ian of course dominated proceedings and was a smash hit as Mother Goose. There was an hilarious montage of images of Mother Goose with global celebrities at the start of the second half. There were nods to Les Dawson’s incomparable Ada in his performance. The cast was universally committed and energetic. Sadly John Bishop could not perform as Vic Goose as he was on compassionate leave but his stand-in Gabriel Fleary did a superb job and had easy rapport with the audience. Also outstanding were Sharon Ballard and Karen Mavundukure as the good and bad fairies who drive the plot, and Anne-Jane Casey as the actual goose Cilla, whose performance of Don’t Rain On My Parade was the stand out song of the show (which mixed pop and show tunes to uplifting effect). Oscar Conlon-Morrey as Jack Goose was excellent too, a non-stop bundle of silly energy. All Mother Goose’s animals were engaging, though Richard Leeming as the bat was particularly amusing, despite the joke about the sex offender register. Indeed, the script could take some dark turns, notably when the animals talk about their family histories.

There were moments when the show did capitalise on McKellen’s gigantic stage and screen status. There were nods to Lord of the Rings, references to Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi, and to Shakespeare of course which paid off towards the end of the show.

For a fun night out with star appeal this production obviously hits the spot, even if it feels strange to be going to a panto in March – but the show itself made a joke about that!

Until April 1

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