Mother Goose and the ... Wolf

Jonathan Petherbridge
Greenwich Theatre
(2003)

This is a newly written panto for the London Bubble Theatre Company, ingeniously combining the stories of Mother Goose, the Wolf (without Red Riding Hood), and Jack in his post-Beanstalk phase. The Principal Boy has been happily dispensed with -- instead we had Millie, played energetically by Marva Alexander. And where would we have been without the delightful dame, played admirably by Simon Thomson with an occasional Eric Morecambe sound to his voice.

The packed audience consisted fairly equally of adults and children, and all age groups are well catered for in this production. A daringly modern issue for the adults to get to grips with is the evil plan of the wicked witch (Linda Dobell in elegant medieval costume) to build lots and lots of supermarkets all over the world, full of genetically modified food, graphically represented by a large, square tomato on a conveyor belt. For ballet lovers we had an enchanting dream sequence parody of Swan Lake, with a pas de deux of geese rather than swans. And there was plenty of visual interest and situational humour for the children: Sandra the Goose (Fiona Creese) in her realistic white goosey costume and blue and white spotted headscarf, the perennial pantomime cow, a mad baking session, and edge-of-the-seat farce resulting from Eric Maclennan's tour de force performance as twin wolves, one good and one bad. There was also some additional, and I think unintentional humour resulting from a broken door hinge -- it's always fun to see actors coping with the unexpected!

There were some nice comic theatrical references, for example when Mother Goose in the opening scene suddenly looks out at the audience and calls out: "Millie, we're being watched!" Then, when a little girl was invited up on stage to tell a joke, Mother Goose reassured her with the words: "Don't worry, luv, I'm only a sad bloke in a dress". And later, when a script is mentioned: "Script? Can I have one of those?"

The cast did their valiant best to get the audience to sing along with two songs: one to encourage Sandra to cheer up and lay an egg, the other expressing solidarity with the Red Squirrel Brigade (consisting of two Marxist squirrels who pop up through holes in the stage), but somehow our inhibitions weren't totally got rid of. Perhaps we needed the traditional giant songsheet to help us with the words. I'd also have liked to see photos of all the performers in the programme, especially for those whose faces were hidden inside their animal costumes -- and so that I could drool a little longer over Eric the Wolf!

Reviewer: Gill Stoker