It’s one of my most hotly anticipated Phantom dates of the year – panto-night at Greenwich. It’s always written by the fabulous Andrew Pollard, who has a deft touch with jokes, which means I spend most of the evening in tears of laughter, and yet it’s neither puerile nor smut (it is very silly though…)
Pollard himself always plays the dame, and sensibly gives him/herself the best lines and the best costumes, but his fantastic northern-lass-of-a-certain-age would be nowhere without our other Greenwich panto fixture, Paul Critoph, who has carved himself a niche as the ‘jolly-old-soul’ character (he bears a strong resemblance to Old King Cole) and usually plays the object of Pollard’s amorous advances.
Once I’m sure that those two are on board, I’m happy to recommend to all, knowing it will be in safe hands. The rest of the cast are always chosen for their enthusiasm and ability rather than their track record in daytime soaps, and some serious cash is spent on the production values. I particularly liked this year’s fake proscenium arch surrounding the show, giving a feel of what the old Greenwich Theatre would have been like.
Mother Goose has, frankly, the slightest of plots – and that’s saying something when you’re in panto territory. I confess I was surprised at the choice, and I’m still not convinced it was the best possible idea. Still – Andrew Pollard’s made a good fist at the morality tale which sees the eponymous heroine choosing good looks over her friends (an idea guaranteed, in Panto Land, to turn out badly) ‘with hilarious consequences.’
After a bit of a slow start, it soon heated up to the usual juggernaut of stupid gags, ridiculous premises, audience participation, penguins in Iceland, soppy lovers, a sexy baddie in six-inch stilettos (some of the Phantom posse are still not completely over those…) and a slop-scene that had everyone screaming.
This isn’t quite the five-star territory that last year’s show revelled in (the Bohemian Rhapsody sequence is still my favourite theatre scene ever) but I’m putting it down to Mother Goose being a bit of a duff story rather than any drop in standards. It’s still a solid four-and-a-half stars.
And it’s still an utterly brilliant night out (I’d recommend a couple of glasses of something from the bar before attempting it if you’re a grown up) with possibly more adults than kids in the audience these days as it gains almost cult status.
I genuinely found myself wondering during the interval how they’d deal with Hettie’s ‘transformation,’ I enjoyed the soppy lovers (though I could have taken some messing about in the background by the comics during the love-song – nice as the two leads’ voices are, the lovers’ song is always the most boring part of any pantomime) and I shouted, sang, hissed and booed along with the best of ‘em (the ‘couple of glasses of something from the bar’ probably helped).
I keep meaning to get to what is widely-regarded to be the gold-standard of London panto these days, the Hackney Empire (which stars Clive Rowe – who, by the way, can be seen in past-production posters all the way down Greenwich Theatre stairs) and if I do, I’ll report back as to how ours compares. Personally, I suspect Hackney’s Luvvie brigade have bigged it up to be trendy – and the place for yummy mums to be seen, and though I’m sure it’s wonderful, I’ll be surprised if it’s much better than Greenwich’s annual treat.
After all, we are the coolest uncool town in London and we should revel in that – it’s still possible to buy tickets (though it is filling up) for our shows.
I stake my tricorn that you’ll enjoy this piece of festive nonsense. Get tickets here.