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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

Mother Goose: Ian McKellen and John Bishop


Review: Mother Goose Pantomime, co-produced by Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, among many other producers, written by Johnathan Harvey and directed by Cal McCrystal. In Oxford until 11 March and then on tour throughout the UK until Easter. Tickets from £13.00. Book here.

[Disclosure: Our reviewer received free tickets, a free programme and free drinks for the purposes of this review.]

The Oxford leg of the Mother Goose tour opened last night at the New Theatre to a completely packed house. This production of Mother Goose is the panto of all pantos – it has everything you could possibly want from a panto – plus Ian McKellen! On a miserable and freezing Tuesday night – this was a welcome burst of colour, sound and joy.

I took this photo just before the show - the busiest I've ever seen this theatre.

Ostensibly, the story follows Caroline (Ian McKellen) and Vic (John Bishop) as they run their animal sanctuary. When their friend and animal sanctuary resident, Cilla goose, starts laying golden eggs, Caroline and Vic come into money. What follows are the group’s mad cap adventures, fuelled by money and fame.

Oscar Conlon-Morrey as Jack, Ian McKellen as Caroline and John Bishop as Vic.

The truth is that the story, always flimsy in any panto, is a gossamer pretext for what this production really is – the Ian McKellen show – and this is what has drawn the sell-out audiences.

Anna-Jane Casey as Cilla goose, Bishop and McKellen.

There is a huge amount of talent on display in this production – every actor is gifted and plays their part well, the singing is first rate and the sets, costumes, make-up and music are all excellent. However, all this is outshone by the sheer star power and stage presence of McKellen himself.

This production is a vehicle for McKellen to have a glorious time – and the audience comes along for the ride. You will see McKellen as you’ve never seen him before – in practically every iconic female look from the last 100 years - from Audrey Hepburn’s racing outfit in My Fair Lady to Lady Gaga’s iconic multi-costume outfit for the 2019 Met Gala Ball. McKellen fans (and who isn’t) will also love references to McKellen’s iconic roles, throughout the production.

It is a testament to this greatest of actors that even in a red tweed suit, a huge wig, lipstick and heels – his recitation of a Shakespeare sonnet (number 29, I think), immediately plunges the audience into complete silence as the power of his performance takes hold. Even Bishop recites some Shakespeare (Sonnet 18) and does a pretty good job of it too.

Anna-Jane Casey as Cilla goose.

The writing of this production is steeped in nostalgia, heavily influenced by the classic British sitcoms of the early 70s, but the music and dancing feature covers of recent hits. In short, there is really something for everyone in gorgeous production.

Mother Goose is a brilliantly bonkers assault on the senses that will be enjoyed by pretty much everybody.


If you enjoyed reading this review, you might enjoy reading my other theatre reviews here. If you want to just snuggle down with a good book, you might enjoy reading my book reviews here. If you are drifting away from your new year's resolutions, perhaps reading my Moving Beautifully series is what you need - find it here.


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