Saturday 9 December 2023

 "Mother Goose" written by Morgan Brind

There are a few reasons why I have been looking forward to this show. The first being that I've never seen a show in this venue before, the second and third being that I've never seen Kristian Cunningham in pantomime, even though he has been performing in pantomime locally for quite a few years, and being a Coronation Street addict, I couldn't wait to see ex Corrie serial killer Stephen Reid. aka Todd Boyce on stage.
"Mother Goose" has a loving family who drive her quackers, a bird sanctuary for peaky poultry in the village of Squalkstone and even a magical goose that lays golden eggs. She has everything anyone could possibly wish for, except the one thing she really wants, to be beautiful. When she makes a deal with Lucifer Vanity, a little fowl play means she gets a lot more than she bargained for.

Morgan Brind, Derby's award winning Dame, plays Mother Goose, and I can see why he is an award winning dame. He has that air about him and has the ability to ad lib with comedy effect, without straying too far from the script. Loved the pizza making scene with Mother Goose and Benedict, which invariably got messy, especially for Benedict. I've seen this scene done before but a very long time ago, so it was nice to see something that hasn't been done for a long while. Morgan has a very good voice which is shown off to good effect with his ballad near the close of Act One.

As with every Dame, the costumes are works of art; one in particular with a large pair of wings overshadowed Morgan with their size, but the piece de resistance is the final costume. No spoilers from me on that one! Morgan knows how to work an audience, especially one as big as the one at Derby Arena, on both a vast scale as well as one to one. And this Goose even takes to the air!
Kristian Cunningham plays Benedict. I had been told just how good Kristian is in this style of theatre; as I said earlier, I've never seen him in panto mode, but he is made for panto and has it down to a fine art. He is fun to watch, he has unlimited energy, especially on a stage as big as the Derby Arena stage, and resonates with the younger audience members.

Todd Boyce is Demon Vanity, or Lucifer Vanity as the name has been amended to on stage. When you are so well known for a role like Stephen Reid, the Coronation Street serial killer, being seen as a different baddie can be a bit of an albatross, never mind a goose, around your neck. From his first scene he was this panto character, and I for one did not even think of Stephen Reid. Vanity is, as the name implies, vain and arrogant, but it's the delivery of this slightly camp character's script that brings the comedy out, and you just know that Vanity is not quite as nasty as he would like us to believe.
This is Todd's panto debut but I have a feeling that he enjoyed this experience just as much as the audience did. It may come as a surprise that Todd does not have a bad voice either. His version of Kylie's "Padam Padam" was great fun and his long note at the end of the "Relight My Fire" section was strong and controlled.
Nicola Martinus-Smith is Rosemary, Baron Wasteland's daughter and good friend of Benedict. Lovely voice and very easy on the eye as well as a fun character.

Roddy Peters plays Baron Wasteland, who falls under the spell of Vanity, turning from being everyone's landlord hero to a part-time baddie, to help Vanity get his way to win everyone's souls.
Djalenga Scott is Fairy Charity, the first member of the cast we really get to know. Charity battles Vanity's evil magic and has a lovely modern feel about the character, and this fairy can fly. Djalenga has a lovely voice, I just wished that the volume on her mic was turned up just a little more.

The Goose, who was called Shelley Bassey, was one of the cutest looking geese I've seen, especially with those beautiful long eyelashes, was great fun to watch. Played by Ben Tanner, there were parts where this wonderful giant goose made you feel sorry for her.
The adult ensemble consisted of Ellie Brewin, Keil Clayton, Callie Coyle, George Fryer, Lilie Hill and Emilio Maoudis.
There are three teams of young ensembles, Team Boiled Eggs, Team fried Eggs and Team Scrambled Eggs.

Directed by Mark Chatterton. This panto is fast paced and full of energy. The cast used the whole of the auditorium, and that is one thing about the layout of the auditorium, the cast can easily move swiftly among the audience with those water guns.
Musical Director is Andy Booth, and along with his band Corrina Etherington, Natalie Light and John Clark their sound made a big impression.
Choreographed by Matthew Stevens, there's plenty of energy in these dance routines for both adult and younger ensembles.
The set design is by Morgan Brind, who also wrote the panto. The sets are superb, extravagant and smothered in glitter and sparkle. A clever waterfall scene and a dark and creepy underground lair for Vanity. The writing is fresh with a blend of older and new jokes and the scene in Act Two which celebrates Derby in a parody of "Barbie Girl" is clever and very funny.

Lighting design is by David Phillips. This has to be one of the best lighting designs for a panto this year. That could be due to the sheer scale of the lighting. From punctuating the Arena with red lighting every time Vanity strode on stage to the gentle mirror ball, snowy effect to the design used for the big dance numbers. It was exciting and thrilling and possibly one of the biggest rigs for a show like this I've seen this year.
Sound design is by James Cook. There seemed to be a few sound issues, and again missed mic cues and mic packs cutting out and popping, but they were sorted out without too many problems. Personally I would have liked the mics for the actors slightly louder, but that is just my personal preference, but you have to take into account the size of this venue. It's massive and perfecting the sound mix is no easy ask for any sound designer and operator. I have come to realise that this area of the show is possibly the hardest to get spot on, and I have every respect for all sound designers in however big the venue.

"Mother Goose" is great fun, well written, well performed by a cast who know exactly what they are doing and experts in giving the best and getting the best from their audiences, even if the audience were just a little slow to warm up. That changed after the interval and the panto became more of a two-way form of entertainment.
My first show at Derby Arena, but I have a feeling that it will not be my last if the quality is as high as tonight.
"Mother Goose" is such a quacking good show that I expeckt it to sell pretty fast, so get your tickets all the way up to Sunday 31 December.

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