Mother Goose Review – Curve Theatre, Leicester

Mother Goose is a party from start to finish!

holding up programme against a set with an egg. programme reads mother goose ian mckellen and john bishop written by jonathon harvey directed by cal mccrystal

“Leicester, are you ready!?”, John Bishop booms. Ready to scream Sweet Caroline… Of course we were ready!

If there was any doubt that Mother Goose was going to be a big hit, that doubt will wash away within seconds. In fact, it’ll wash away before the curtain even opens as John Bishop will take to the stage and have you in stitches of laughter from the get go.

“Just relax. Forget everything and relax.” Bishop announced to the audience before the production. I can’t speak for the rest of the audience, but I know with complete honesty that both myself and Alex did. Who knew that pantomime running until Easter was the real boost we all needed. “McKellen said in his day they always ran until Easter”, and you know what I’m absolutely here for bringing that traditionalism back!

There is always an element of apprehension when a big name stars in a pantomime. There’s always that thought that it might be too politically correct or watered down, but with Mother Goose this wasn’t the case at all. In fact, if you’re offended by political satire at the conservative party and won’t be happy to see some jokes thrown in that direction, this might not be the panto for you!

Here’s the thing about Mother Goose, you will have some people that will sit there and say the jokes are old and done before or the storyline is a little wishy-washy or perhaps even that it’s not a perfected performance. But isn’t that the beauty and the comfort of a pantomime? Isn’t that what makes a pantomime such a staple to British theatre? Isn’t panto season something that is supposed to be exactly that?

There is something so refreshingly British about a pantomime. We sit and clap politely during theatre but when it comes to pantomime. We let loose. We go wild. And Mother Goose encouraged that wholeheartedly.

cast of mother goose 2023 at the curve theatre Leicester

If there’s something that is worth the entire pantomime alone, it’s hearing the delivery of Ian McKellen reciting The Quality of Mercy, the speech given by Portia in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The Curve fell silent and McKellen’s voice was smooth as butter which delivered with pure eloquence.

Though, it’s not just his the theatre could hear a pin drop speech that made McKellen such a fantastic dame. He was cheeky, he was fun and he was outrageously entertaining. I especially enjoyed his performance with Vic (Bishop) and Jack (Conlon-Morrey) baking the cake. We’ve all seen it before, but it was delivered wonderfully. The reaction from McKellen after Jack had rubbed Mother Goose up was… well… the icing on the cake! Fits of hysterics came from the audience, and the cast on stage. It’s moments like this that make panto.

There are some things that just go together. Bread and butter. Jelly and ice-cream and apparently, John Bishop and Ian McKellen. The way they bounced off one another and their friendship on stage was evident throughout the performance. In fact, you’d think they’d been a double act for years. There were moments where John Bishop broke the fourth wall which made the audience feel a part of the production both front and backstage. There were hilarious unscripted moments provided by both McKellen and Bishop. The production was a mess, a glorious and whacky hoot. A beautiful, chaotic mess.

john bishop smiling at sir ian mckellen

You could just feel the fun between the cast and that radiated to us, the audience. You could pick up the feeling that the cast just truly enjoyed being there and performing and nothing was taken too seriously. I feel as though I captured this on camera with the way John Bishop is looking at Sir Ian McKellen.

But, it’s not just the McKellen and Bishop show which is what I think made this that little bit more special. Anna-Jane Casey musical theatre legend is starring as Cilla Quack which definitely deserves a mention. Casey’s performance of ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ is exceptional which demonstrated her incredible vocal range. Her performance throughout the pantomime is enthusiastic and energetic and has the audience in a spin.

I thoroughly enjoyed the daft relationship between Jack (Conlon-Morrey) and Jill (Akande) and was blown away by both of their vocals and enjoyed their performance with Bear (Fleary) of the panto ghost and ghoulies classic. Adam Brown was a comedic King of Gooseland who brought such a fun energy to the stage whether performing as the King or Goat. An audience favourite was definitely Bat (Leeming) with his quirky and weird one liners. Not forgetting Encanta and Malignia (Ballard and Mavundukure retrospectively) who played wonderful and wicked fairies with jaw-dropping belters which made you tap your feet and sing along.

Alex described the production as being an Easter egg of references and I couldn’t have said it better myself. References to theatre, references to previous accolades of the cast and references to the woes of the news. Did somebody mention THE ENERGY COMPANY?

As John Bishop said ‘sit back, relax and have a laugh’. And what a laugh we had.

Catch Mother Goose at Curve Theatre, Leicester this week before it flies off to Dublin, Cardiff and Salford before finishing up in Bristol.

Curve Theatre, Leicester 15 MAR – 19 MAR
Running time: 2h 20 including an interval
Age recommendation: 4+

Ambassador Theatre Group Productions
Written by Jonathon Harvery
Directed by Cal McCrystal
Choreographed by Lizzi Gee

Press tickets for review.


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