Home » London Theatre Reviews » Mother Goose Starring Ian McKellen and John Bishop

Mother Goose Starring Ian McKellen and John Bishop

A friend of mine posted on Facebook for all to see earlier this week: … “we saw Mother Goose in Brighton….amazing cast of brilliant talent…..such a good show, so funny… honestly best panto I have ever seen … EVER… do go if you can, totally wonderful!“.

So who am I to disagree!!

MOTHER GOOSE. Ian McKellen as Mother Goose and John Bishop as Vic Goose. Photo credit Manuel Harlan.
MOTHER GOOSE. Ian McKellen as Mother Goose and John Bishop as Vic Goose. Photo credit Manuel Harlan.

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!

Thirdly the choreography (Lizzi Gee) is spectacular for a pantomime and you have seen nothing until you experience McKellen tap dancing! Cal McCrystal’s direction has been light touch, with an emphasis on energy as well as letting his ‘stars’ do their own thing. For example, John Bishop starts the proceedings with a hilarious stand-up routine which is but a prelude to what is to follow!

Musically the show is superb as well, with an excellent pit band (James Keay) and every member of the cast being more than able to put over a song, even John Bishop (well, nearly!), as he demonstrates towards the end of Act Two.

Apart from McKellen and Bishop, both of whom instinctively have the style and rapport with an audience that is required and work beautifully together as if they have been a double act for years, the remainder of the fifteen-strong cast also impresses.

Oscar Conlon-Morrey looks and acts suitably ‘dense’ as their son, Jack, having terrific energy and a continual smile which grabs the attention of the children in the audience especially. His ‘baking’ scene is not only very amusing but also very clever, involving split-second timing. Simbi Akande looks pretty as his fiancée Jill and Anna-Jane Casey impresses as Cilla Quack.

McKellen and Bishop are not given all the best bits: Genevieve Nicole impresses in a hilarious ‘Camilla’ send-up portrayal and Sharon Ballard and Karen Mavundukure are allowed time to develop their roles as good and wicked fairies, both with powerful singing voices and imaginative costumes.

The inventively designed puppets (Christopher Barlow), lighting (Prema Mehta) and Sound (Ben Harrison) all add to the enjoyment of this high-quality show.

By the way, there is a great deal of audience participation from the outset, none of it embarrassing, and all of it embraced with enthusiasm by the capacity audience.

The Facebook friend whom I quoted at the top of this review gave this show NINE stars, but unfortunately, I am not allowed to! However, it is a wonderfully uplifting production with that ‘feel-good’ factor, so that you leave the theatre still laughing and glowing with goodwill to everyone, especially to all those involved with this production. It is also great to see traditional pantomime back at Brighton’s Theatre Royal after many years, as well as a panto presented by ATG! The result is a very high benchmark for other producers to aim for!

Mother Goose is in London’s West End and then touring the UK until Easter: it deserves every success and full houses. A superbly enjoyable evening at the theatre for children of all ages!

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

The whole nation is flocking to see Ian McKellen and John Bishop as they join forces to bring you a hilarious family-friendly panto. Mother Goose is the ultimate theatrical feast – full of fun, farce and surprises that will make you honk out loud.

Meet Mother Goose (McKellen) and her husband Vic (Bishop). Running an Animal Sanctuary for waifs and strays, they live a wholesome life inside an abandoned Debenhams. But when a magical goose comes a-knocking, will fame & fortune get the better of them?!

Will Ma’s feathers get ruffled? Will Pa tell everyone to get stuffed?! And is their humble life about to turn fowl? Get ready for fairies with hefty vocal chords, puppets with tap dance qualifications and impeckably constructed mayhem that will quack up the whole family.

From the imaginations of Jonathan Harvey (Coronation Street, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme) and Cal McCrystal (‘Britain’s funniest director’ Guardian) comes the MOTHER of all pantos – so don’t be a goose.

Book your Mother Goose tickets today and get ready for take-off!

Theatre Royal Brighton
Sun 4 Dec – Sun 11 Dec 2022

Duke of York’s Theatre, London
Thu 15 Dec 2022 – Sun 29 Jan 2023

Liverpool Empire
Tue 28 Feb – Sat 4 Mar 2023

New Theatre Oxford
Tue 7 Mar – Sat 11 Mar 2023

Related News & Reviews Past & Present


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

    View all posts
Scroll to Top