With so many pantomimes to choose from - some would say crowding - this festive period, it is hard to decide whether producers spend money on big names just to sell tickets or whether it is to compete with the more local and intimate of theatres’ traditional pastime. Either way, to local people - particularly children - the stars of their local pantomime will remain in their memory for years to come, as an introduction to the big world of theatre or the amazing yet camp world of performing as a hobby.

As we (North West End) are invited to visit yet another independent and intimate but welcoming theatre in Greater Manchester (well, Tameside) for Barry Crossley’s well-wittily-written Mother Goose, we are, as the director warns us, to witness their “yearly dose of silliness…an evening of riotous entertainment” with Liz Openshaw’s Fairy Footloose (and fancy free) opening the show (and doubling up as Queen later on), lead by Cameron Kennedy as Billy Goose - who is one of the highlights with his natural warming to the role - and his sister Jill played by choreographer Jenny Savill who has worked tirelessly with the young chorus and ensemble of dancers, the youngest of whom is just seven!

The two are the sibling offspring’s of the shows larger than life…dame and show’s namesake; Mother Goose played by director Mike Lawlor. After meeting the Fairy, we also see her counterpart Demon of Discontent played by Stuart Wilkie who urges the crowd to boo through conducting them each time he appears. Along with the brother and sister, the principal boy with the best voice in the show (well, maybe on par with Billy’s) is Fay Daniel as Jill’s love interest and later fiancé Colin.

With a very funny script, by local lad Crossley, it is matched by the uninclusion of accents but the homely touch of local dialect. It was sad initially that comedy character Billy couldn’t always be heard during his well-performed “Get On Up When You’re Down” which he didn’t have a microphone for under the mix of backing tracks that had sudden cut-offs at the end and the trio of a live band (Collette Stevenson on Piano, Ron Cassidy on Bass and Bill Lear on Drums).

As well as the ballets of Swan [Goose] Lake adaptations and The ugly duckling, it is nice to have a mix of “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, Spandau Ballet’s “Gold”, coupled with Bruno Mars’ “Marry You”, Pharrell‘s “Happy” and the awfully sung out-of-tune “How Do You Like Your Eggs In The Morning” and “I Am What I Am” from Mother. It was slightly too silly that one cast member - one of the two, erm, well, Hunchmen Biff and Boff (Jean Radcliffe and Dave Brobbin) - kept either adlibbing or got the line wrong (as did another) but I guess that’s what this genre is all about.

Overall a good local pantomime in an intimate space, with a lovely colourful set, away from the worries of everyday life and cold, put together by a team who really look as though they enjoy themselves and work together.

Reviewer: Chris Oatway

Reviewed: 10th December 2015