Review: Old Mother Goose, York Theatre Royal

Berwick and friend in last year's production, Old Mother Goose
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There’s a goose loose about this hoose… Berwick Kaler as Dame Aggie. Photographs: Anthony Robling / York Theatre Royal

Old Mother Goose

York Theatre Royal

Until Sat Jan 31 @ 2.30pm and 7.30pm

£11-£28.50

Theatre Royal website

For a number of years I used to go to a competitor’s panto as I knew members of the cast. What was once a family tradition fell by the wayside as the jokes became overly familiar and the set never seemed to change regardless of the story being told. It got to the point that I no longer wanted to go, regardless of who was in it.

This year I was offered the opportunity to review Old Mother Goose at the Theatre Royal and thought I’d give it a go. What I found was one of the most entertaining family evenings I could ask for.

With a rather picky 12-year-old daughter in tow, who I believed had outgrown the pantomime tradition, we took our seats in the dress circle. I don’t think we stopped laughing for the whole performance.

I was enchanted by the costumes, the dancers, the set and even the corny but topical jokes.

I can totally understand why Berwick Kaler has been returning to the Theatre Royal every Christmas for well over 30 years. He has a large list of acting credits in the programme, but who needs it.

He is undoubtedly the star of the show, and he plays the part of Aggie Goosegg with consummate ease. His ad libbing, his facial expressions, everything about him made him the perfect pantomime dame.

Martin Barrass plays Berwick’s slightly dim witted son. My daughter’s lasting memory of him seems to have been a rather large nose he was graced with at one point in the performance which kept getting bent in a door.

Suzy Cooper plays Berwick’s daughter Margarine. In one incredibly funny scene they swap places and pretend to be each other. The over exaggerated Geordie and London accents were hilarious, as were the costume changes.

AJ Powell had a large fan base in the audience, and received a massive cheer for his change of costume when he was revealed as heir to the King of Fairies.

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Berwick, AJ Powell and Hermione Lynch plan a massive omelette
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Happy to be back – David Leonard (boo! hiss!)

Total kudos to the guy for his brave outfit, it resembled a short purple hot pant suit with winged collar, and was paired with knee-high laced up bother boots. I think I actually had a little leg envy at one point.

Although it has to be said Harry Hughes as Egghead totally rocked the Swan Lake ballerina costume as a fairy bouncer who used ten words where one would do. Luckily AJ Powell acted as translator for him.

Tim Lawrence played the dashing but dim Gayelord Tingly-Bottom and was the epitome of pantomime prince in his tights and boots.

Despite an excellent performance from all of the above, the hero of the show for me was David Leonard, returning after two years away as The Dreaded Lurgi. What a stellar performance. And yes, I do have a thing for bad guys.

From the moment he pranced on stage in his devil’s costume I was enthralled. From his evil laugh to his sideways looks at the audience he made the perfect baddie. His reappearance was greeted with loud cheers, so I’m obviously not the only one who loves him.

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Cracking cast: Faye Spooner, Harry Hughes, Suzy Cooper, Jake Lindsay, Tim Lawrence, Cameron MacDonald and Danielle-Mullan
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His nose is out of joint: Martin Barrass

The audience were treated to some very clever water jokes as well as some video scenes including a hilarious journey around the streets of York.

This pantomime had something to entertain all the family, from the youngest toddler to the oldest grandparent. It’s clear that for many this has become an annual Christmas tradition, in one case spanning 30 years, and I can understand why.

I stepped through the front door of the Theatre Royal a cynic, but I can assure you I left as a convert. It was a pleasure to hear the laughter and the memories of the theatregoers as they left at the end of the performance.

If you’re looking to create some fantastic memories and your own Christmas traditions for your family, then this is definitely the pantomime to go and see.