Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

All the fun of the goose fair

Bearing up: Billy (Daniel Beaton) is happy with his teddy bear and Priscilla  - the goose with the magnificent beak (Amanda Grant).

The Wonderful Story of Mother Goose

Hall Green Little Theatre


DESPITE the excess of forbidding black drapes, Roy Palmer's production has a pleasing sparkle, a built-in happiness, and one slapped thigh that demonstrates that here is a company that intends to win through.

Drama, too: Helen Dawson is a powerful, theatrical Fairy Queen. We don't see much of her, but when she is there she holds the attention unwaveringly.

That thigh belongs to Laura Coxon.  She is Colin, which must be one of the least likely names to be found in pantomime this season. Colin! An upstart moniker in a world far more accustomed to a Billy or a Tommy – but he's here to fall in love with the delightful Jill of Hannah Scothern, and in the hands of Laura Coxon he displays a likeable confidence. Not that it's all plain sailing: when Colin and Jill sing their duet, the need for microphones becomes apparent. Yes, we can hear them, but the listening is not effortless.

Every panto has its baddie, and in Discord (Amy Leadbeter), this one turns up trumps. She is controlled energy in emerald green with 10-inch fingernails; a snarling, cackling harridan who compels the attention in her battles with the audience and the serene Fairy Harmony of Josie Booth.

Also up to no good is Clarence, the apoplectic and initially alliterative Squire of Roger Warren – a  persistently precise characterisation which also earns its share of boos.


Daniel Beaton has a pugnacious aggression as Billy; and Tony O'Hagan and Michael Nile rake in many of the other laughs as Sage and Onion. But the presiding presence is James Weetman's Mother Goose, a study in falsetto and bad fashion. He is strong and confident – though whether that voice will last the ten nights of torment that he seems intent on putting it through is anybody's guess.

Writer Norman Robbins's decision to make Mother Goose beautiful by having her plunge into a magic pool gives Rachael Pickard the chance to startle son Billy, and she takes it with aplomb.

Priscilla the goose (Amanda Grant)  waddles calmly enough throughout the action, but I suspect that here is one young woman who is happy when the curtains finally close.  She spends a lot of time onstage and it can't be all that pleasant, incarcerated behind that magnificent beak.

This is a show without a lot of music, and the dancing is largely confined to the girls who float serenely around the stage a couple of times. But there's plenty of fun, with various members of the company brave enough to sacrifice themselves to stand-up and emerging with credit. To 11-12-10.

John Slim 

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