The pantomime, Mother Goose, has been around for as long as Hackney Empire itself, which perhaps makes it the ideal choice for the venues 120th anniversary. The return of director Clive Rowe, who also stars as Mother Goose, follows on from the success of last year’s panto.
Set in the fictional borough of Hackneywood, Mother Goose’s Makeover emporium seems to be doing a roaring trade, especially in a town filled with social media influencers. The only problem is Mother Goose is so filled with kindness; she can never bring herself to charge anyone for her services. So now she’s three years in rent arrears and Squire Purchase (Tony Marshall) is intent on repossessing her home.
That’s not the only problem the Goose family face. Fairy Fame (Gemma Wardle) has bet the Demon Queen (Rebecca Parker) that she can’t corrupt Mother Goose, but will the arrival of riches (in the form of golden eggs) and beauty, finally turn Mother Goose into the latest viral sensation?
Everything you could want from a pantomime is here; Will Brenton’s script is jam packed with witty asides that are perfect for the whole family, there’s the odd bit of innuendo for the adults but it’s very low key. Add in some audience interaction, a sing-along, and plenty of “he’s behind you”’s and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a fun night out.
The Goose brothers , Billy (Kat B) and Jack (Ope Sowande) bring the traditional elements of a love story to this panto, and when Jack finds himself in a spot of bother, it’s Jill (Holly Mallett) who provides a strong role model figure, riding to the rescue. Kat B and Clive Rowe guide the audience through the story, and their chemistry is electric, creating the warmest and most welcoming environment for every member of the audience.
But perhaps star of the whole show is Ruth Lynch as Priscilla The Goose, with a performance involving puppetry that steals the hearts of everyone in the room. Then there’s Cleo Pettitt’s fabulous costumes (especially the outfits worn by Mother Goose) which pop against the bright and impressive set.
After the interval, Mother Goose allows itself a few moments of indulgence, stepping away from the traditions of panto to celebrate 120 years of the venue itself. From Harry Houdini to Louis Armstrong, the stars that have previously graced that beautiful stage, are honoured by the stars who occupy it now.
If the intention with Mother Goose was to create a pantomime for the whole family, then they have more than succeeded, grannies and grandkids alike were on their feet, and shaking their tail feathers for the final number. Lots of fun and feeling entirely inclusive, there are still plenty more pantos to open, but this one is surely a strong contender for the best pantomime in London.