We take a look at what critics have had to say about the pantomime currently touring until April.
West End Best Friend: **** “From his introductory speech at the beginning of the production, it is clear John Bishop’s experience as a stand-up comedian is what drives his performance. His recognition of the audience is casual and conversational and shows a clear understanding of what we want, as he sets the tone of the rest of the production. Bishop is funny in his clever use of physical comedy and props and succeeds mostly in moments when comedy and interaction with the audience is involved.”
British Theatre.com: ***** “The pleasure of it is in the feeling that despite the topflight cast and the direction of Cal McCrystal, peerless physical comedy guru, it has the feeling of a local panto, even a community one. No big technical showpieces, but plenty of old-fashioned gags: puppets popping out of pans, a ‘self-raising flower’ swannee-whistling up from a table, a custard pie scene and rapid costume changes. For the Dame himself, one happens rather brilliantly behind ostrich feather fans, another when his oppo John Bishop as Vic Goose is transformed from a Grenadier Guard to a leather-babe (“that went down better in Brighton..”).”
The Guardian: ** “But even with McKellen’s luminosity on stage, this pantomime seems ill-put together and strained in its humour. John Bishop, playing Vic Goose opposite McKellen, tells us it will grapple with state-of-the-nation politics. At first it seems to do just that. The Gooses and their sanctuary of animals face destitution in a cost of living crisis, with energy bills they cannot afford to pay until a rescued goose begins to lay golden eggs.”
WhatsOnStage: **** “Jonathan Harvey has penned this purposefully, a reasonably politicised script that namechecks various Conservative MPs and offers playful allegories for ongoing social issues. In some ways more musical comedy than pantomime, there is surprisingly little audience participation but plenty of projectiles. This is, perhaps, the theatregoers’ pantomime, a little more sophisticated, genuinely sincere and bursting with musical talent. Long-time abstainers of the genre will be hard-pressed to keep from beaming.”
City Am: “John Bishop is the chalk to McKellen’s cheese. The Liverpudlian comedian focusses on deadpan delivery and basically opens up the stage for the Grand Dame wherever he can. But they have a special kind of chemistry: at one point McKellen awards Bishop with a fake Oscar for trying his best to do some proper acting. Jonathan Harvey’s pun-heavy script might not have landed so well in other hands, but this lot deliver the cheesiest lines with panache.”
iNews: *** “It’s a great shame that McKellen’s all-round excellence didn’t merit a better script than Jonathan Harvey’s tired and lazy confection, complete with the sort of menopause jokes I thought went out in the 80s. Anna-Jane Casey’s spirited goose Cilla Quack gamely ploughs through them and then shakes her tail feathers in style as a waterfowl with impeccable musical theatre credentials. There are other actors playing other parts – a shout-out to Richard Leeming as a drolly witty Bat – but Harvey supplies them almost nothing to work with.”
Broadway World: ***** “Does Mother Goose offer the production values of a Palladium panto? No. Does it suffer for it? Absolutely not. It’s a smart decision by set and costume designer Liz Ascroft to retain some of the more simplistic tropes of panto in terms of props and staging, and I defy you not to adore the giant llama that looks like it’s been knocked up by a 12 year old in a CDT class. The costumes adorning the animals are very smartly done, however…who doesn’t love a cricket with a neon green bike helmet? It’s no surprise that the cast look like they’re having a ball during every minute.”
London Theatre1: ***** “Why is it so good? Firstly, and perhaps unusually for a pantomime, the script by Jonathan Harvey is very, very witty and clever. Clever, because young people (ie children!) can get a lot out of it as well as adults! Secondly, the sets (Liz Ascroft) are highly imaginative traditional panto sets: mostly drop cloths that are quick to change, most effective and stunningly painted (Bower Woods). The costumes, also the work of Liz Ascroft are sumptuous with no expense spared, especially those for Ian McKellen, who proves himself the most adept of quick-change artistes!”
The Telegraph: ***** “Sure, it’s flimsier stuff than the best, time-honoured fairy-tale classics and, albeit witty, the script, by Bishop’s fellow Liverpudlian Jonathan Harvey, indulges in copious innuendo, along with in-jokes about Derek Jacobi and Judi Dench. But offsetting that tot-befuddling vibe, the whole shiny shebang, directed by Cal McCrystal, is delivered with such warm-hearted zest, festooned with feelgood pop-hit and musicals-derived numbers, it’s hard to imagine anyone failing to benefit from taking a gander.”
The Reviews Hub: ***** “Mother Goose is the best of what Pantomime has to offer. It is irreverent, anarchic and playful. With plenty of laughs, song, dance and bags full of soul, this is a must see for all the family.”
London Theatre.co.uk: ***** “The show may feel freeform, even anarchic, but courses with an abiding respect for theatrical tradition: Peter Pan, we’re informed, premiered at this same theatre in 1904, and Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi are foregrounded every bit as readily as the music of ABBA, Sunset Boulevard, and the World Cup.”
The Stage: ***** “Ian McKellen exudes warmth and good humour in the title role of a pantomime that combines flawless writing and excellent design with matchless performances.”
To book tickets visit: ATG Tickets.