Mother Goose ★★★★ Hackney Empire | Nov 19 - Dec 31, 2022

This lovingly restored theatre celebrates its 120th anniversary this year. The extraordinary edifice, designed by Frank Matcham, comes to life this holiday season with a traditional panto written by Will Brenton and directed by Clive Rowe. All of the traditional panto elements are here, and they all work together to provide a delightful entertainment for the whole family. There is lots of audience participation and the silliness is non-stop as Mother Goose (Clive Rowe) is briefly seduced into adopting the values of the dark side when the golden eggs start popping out. The formerly generous and kind mother of the Goose boys, Billy (Kat B) and Jack (Ope Sowande), becomes enamoured of the false values of wealth and beauty promoted by social media and by the Demon Queen (Rebecca Parker). Fortunately, however, thanks to her family and lots of audience encouragement, she is restored to her former sweet and sharing self. We particularly enjoyed the performance of Kat B whose cool, but friendless, Billy lit up the stage whenever he appeared. His wonderful candy-filled pun fest with Squire Purchase (Tony Marshall) is a classic. However, no one upstages Mother! Clive Rowe has more costume changes than Liz Truss had days as prime minister and his song styling recalls the incredible James Brown. It all makes for a night that both adults and children will enjoy and contributes to the sense of community empowerment and fun that are now the hallmarks of this historical venue. Let's hope the Hackney Empire is around for another 120 years and is still providing joyful and gently instructive entertainment like Mother Goose.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Manuel Harlan.

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