Review Mother Goose, Wales Millennium Centre by Helen Joy

Did you enjoy that?
No, panto’s not really my thing.

Well, I guess that’s one way to end the evening. Not the reply I expected.

How awful it must have been for them sitting next to me and my pal volubly joining in with every ‘Behind you’ and screaming ‘Sweet Caroline’ as prompted. It reminded me of a school trip to watch Jacques Tati films and failing to find any of them funny. Panto is either your thing or it isn’t and even if it is, sometimes it takes a conscious effort to enjoy the trip.

It certainly felt a bit trippy at times. I did wonder occasionally if a little soma was in the air in this brave new world of traditional panto meets … um…. What exactly? It followed the traditional styling of slapstick, political commentary, dancing, singing, inuendo and an eclectic collection of critters, gender role reversal, good defeating evil and a sound moral story.

Overstepping the mark is different for everyone – I couldn’t handle the Michael Gove bat. A bit too obvious, too crude for me. But that’s panto. It’s using humour to cross lines. And give parents something to explain to their children in the car on the way home.

The animal costumes were, frankly, odd. The feeling they had been plucked from the dressing up box in a rush gave them an odd sense of the amateur. Presumably deliberate not only to contrast with the extravagance of the lead role but to give more of the feel of waifs and strays. Quite unfair given the very enjoyable solo performances and by Cilla the Goose especially. And even more unfair given the utter rampant chaotic joy of the whole performance.

The sound was unclear at times and it struck me that their natural voices without amplification might have made for a more WMC like performance and a less confusing and weirdly sluggish start. But boy did it pick up pace!

The witches were extravagant comperes, pushing and pulling the chaos and glory of the story along in some style. Great singing too – really great in fact. Jack was appropriately clownish and played the audience well. Vic, Gabriel Fleary standing in for John Bishop, deserves special mention – what a generous and complete performance. And alongside Gandalf, Sir Ian McKellen, who as Mother Goose runs the show. She headlines this old story and carries it in some style. Larger than life, bigger than everyone else on stage, Les Dawson and Grimaldi combined.

What a bird. And as my mother would have said, Less of the old if you don’t mind.

Aside: dear WMC, tinned wine is not the way forward. It really isn’t.

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