I’ve been reviewing just over four news and so far I’ve attended over 700 shows. Not a bad number but, in all that time, I’ve never managed to get to one of the famous Above the Stag pantomimes. However, this year, that is no longer true, as I attended the 2018 offering Mother Goose Cracks One Out.
In the generic northern mill town of Rugburn – Yorkshire side of the Pennines – Mother Goose (Matthew Baldwin) a kind-hearted hairdresser, runs her business assisted by her reluctant but dedicated son Gay Tommy (Liam Woodlands-Mooney). The two of them are very poor because Mother Goose is not only useless with money but is also very generous, giving away haircuts to the needy – which seems to be everyone – and generally being a bit of a soft touch. Her landlord and squire of the town Amos (Christopher Lane) is demanding his rent as he needs the money since his mill is not doing well. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anyone happy in Rugburn, except maybe the Mayor, Dora (Ellen Butler) who is hoping to organise the town’s first gay pride – something her son Chester (Christian Andrews) is keen to see happening. Even the mystical side of the town is having problems as the good fairy Dandelion (Scott Dale) and the witch Mephista (Briony Rawle) are fighting over the soul of Mother Goose who, thanks to an unexpected arrival in the shape of a beautiful white bird called Priscilla (Laura Blair), is about to find her life altered beyond all recognition.
This is the 10th Above the Stag panto written by the team of Jon Bradfield & Martin Hooper and their reputation for really churning out a good adult panto is second to none. So the big question on everyone’s lips as we took our seats was, could the boys pull it off once again. Well, as someone that started laughing about twenty seconds in and pretty much didn’t stop until the final curtain call, I can definitely say they have really delivered once again. Everything about the panto is right. The script, the songs by Jon Bradfield, the wonderful set courtesy of David Shields and Andrew Beckett’s direction, help a highly skilful and talented cast deliver a first-rate show. Unfortunately, in an effort to minimise the chance of spoilers, I can’t say too much about what goes on. However, all the elements of good old-fashioned panto are there – oh no they’re not, oh yes they are etc – the singalong, the OTT costumes etc are here along with those extra touches that appeal to a more mature – at least in age – pantomime audience.
The cast really throw themselves into the show and deliver a performance that works with the audience to make the most of the saucy script. In fact, everyone on the stage really seems to be enjoying themselves and there is a real feeling of theatrical camaraderie between the members of Team Goose. This is particularly true of Matthew and Liam as Mother Goose and Tommy respectively, whose scenes together are just perfect. Matthew is a perfect pantomime dame with the added freedom of a drag queen to allow her to go that bit further. Whilst Liam is not only the archetypal handsome leading man but he also comes across as a really nice chap you wouldn’t mind going for a drink with. Briony Rawle is suitably evil as Mephisto and really knows how to flirt outrageously with some of the audience in a very uninhibited style that leaves no doubt as to what her mind is thinking.
Pantomime has always been a traditional part of the festive celebrations and those that have kids can guarantee a couple of peaceful hours as the sprogs get lost in the magical world. But, thanks to the dedicated and awesome team at Above the Stag, those of us without ankle biters running around can now have our own fun with a Christmas show dedicated to letting adults be children once more. Chances of getting a ticket to Mother Goose Cracks One Out are very limited, as most of the run is sold out, but try your best, as this show is the perfect way to kick the festive season off in fantastic style.
Review by Terry Eastham
Kind-hearted Mother Goose and her gay son Tommy live in poverty in the generic northern mill town of Rugburn. One day they find a magic goose who lays golden eggs – a bit like the one out of Jack and the Beanstalk but with attitude and an accent – and in no time they become the richest household in town.
But little do they know that a wicked witch and a good fairy have made a bet over whether even a saintly woman like Mother Goose can be corrupted. And so begins a battle for our heroine’s soul!
Mother Goose Cracks One Out! transforms the much-loved, practically unknown fairy tale into a fabulously filthy and gloriously silly riot of laughter, romance and song with all the traditional panto trimmings.
ABOVE THE STAG THEATRE’S PANTOMIME: TENTH YEAR
MOTHER GOOSE CRACKS ONE OUT!
By Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper with songs by Jon Bradfield
Directed by Andrew Beckett
Musical Direction by Aaron Clingham
Designed by David Shields
Lighting designed by Jamie Platt