Mother Goose, Hackney Empire
Writer and director Susie McKenna has created another upbeat and energized show: a stellar achievement considering the Christmas panto has been her baby since 1998.
One of the delights of the Christmas pantomime is the freedom to let the inner child in us shout out at the drama onstage: "It's behind you!" Direct that powerful phrase towards the stresses of the workplace, the s/he said politics of our relationships, and paying relentless bills during the year and going to the panto is actually quite cathartic to usher in 2015.
So, it is no surprise to see so many adults, without the kids, at Hackney Empire thoroughly enjoying the spills and giggles of charming swashbuckling fun. The resplendent Mother Goose, played by the hilarious and inimitable Clive Rowe, is on the verge of being thrown out of her home with her son Billy Goose (Kat B). However, when the adorable goose Priscilla, blesses her home with golden eggs, she finds that it is too easy to be changed by good fortune.
This is a production that transforms ghetto Hackney, once notorious for Murder Mile, to bougie Hackneytopia with delightful sets in calming lilacs and cream that are inspired by fairy tales and fantasy.
Writer and director Susie McKenna has created another upbeat and energized show: a stellar achievement considering the Christmas panto has been her baby since 1998. The storytelling is not as taut as it could be considering the length of the show. Littered with political jibes on the bedroom tax, the Scottish referendum, and not voting UKIP, McKenna’s panto draws upon pop cultural references like Mother Goose putting on her Dora the Explorer outfit and explodes with top hits, including Pharrell’s Happy that get the audience singing along.
And even when the cast mess up their lines, they get right back on track – demonstrating great chemistry and va voom.
Some elements were uncomfortable to watch, however: Frightening Freddie (Darren Hart) as a slooooooooooow talking Nigerian made me wonder how far this caricature would be stretched. Saucy jokes with references to condoms and the song Bang, Bang with Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj definitely take the panto beyond the post PG rating at some points.