They say that beauty is only skin deep; a lesson that lies at the heart of rarely staged pantomime tale Mother Goose. Times are hard for Old Mother Hubbard, but her kindness is rewarded when she is bestowed with a magic goose that lays golden eggs, Priscilla. Mother Hubbard loves her new found friend so much that she renames herself Mother Goose, but discontent soon sets in and unhappy with mere wealth, Mother Goose now wants beauty too. She parts with Priscilla to achieve her goal and in doing so realises that it's what's on the inside that really counts.
This wonderfully told story is the main star of Greenwich's panto, followed extremely closely by Andrew Pollard as Mother Goose and Paul Critoph as Squire Georgie Porgie. Their comic interplay is magnificent and they really know how to work an audience. Pollard, who also writes, is outstanding in the Hamlet of Dames role. The keep-fit scene where marshmallows provide much of the comedy is pure panto gold and had audience members young and old alike roaring with laughter.
Every pantomime should have a glorious transformation, and my, is Greenwich's glorious! At the end of Act One, drab Mother Goose is seen in her bathing suit ready to take a dip in the magical waters to wash away her weary face. Interval over and Mother Goose greets the audience transformed. Dressed in a blue sequinned gown of which Shirley Bassey would be jealous and a blonde wig a la Lily Savage, Pollard performs a toe-tapping set of upbeat numbers, ranging from Banarama's 'Venus', to Pixie Lott's 'Boys and Girls', complete with Bucks Fizz style dress ripping to reveal a pair of shapely legs.
Traditionalists won't be disappointed; all the panto staples are there and perfectly executed, with a well thought-out set by Julie Godfrey that looks as though it's come straight out of a Ladybird picture book. Kieron Smith as director obviously knows what he's doing and has another success on his hands this year after having directed the last two pantos at Greenwich.
Well chosen musical numbers are made even more effective by some clever lyric changes; a particular crowd pleaser is a witty rendition of Vanilla Ice's 'Ice, Ice, Baby' under the musical direction of Steve Markwick. Costumes are a kaleidoscopic parade of colour, worn by a skilled ensemble who keep energy levels high throughout the evening and perform some nifty dance moves courtesy of choreographer Ellen Jakubiel.
Pantomime isn't pantomime without a battle between good and evil. Manal El-Feitury's dastardly wicked Demonica Baddegg deserves all the boos she gets as she plots against Stephanie Ticknell-Smith's bubbly blonde Fairy Featherlight. Ticknell-Smith's estuary English speaking Fairy appeared a little out of place in the cast, with her couplets sounding rather clunky, but what was lost here was made up for by her strong singing voice.
One member of the cast who deserves utmost praise is Priscilla the Goose. Superbly brought to life, she melted the audience's hearts each time she waddled on stage. Unaccredited in the programme, whoever Priscilla really is deserves great acclaim for achieving such a believable goose in what can be an unrewarding role; being literally caged in the hot and uncomfortable costume for the show's entirety.
In the current financial crisis times for everyone are hard, but, as Mother Goose says, "Though you may be hard up, you can still have a hoot", so get down to Greenwich for a golden production in every sense.
Playing until 3rd January 2010.
Reviewer: Simon Sladen