The whole nation has been flocking to see Ian McKellen and John Bishop as they join forces to bring you a hilarious family-friendly pantomime Mother Goose. And it’ll soon be time for Oxfordshire residents to see this resolutely un-Christmassy show with more costume changes than when Sarah Jessica Parker hosted the 2000 MTV Movie Awards and successfully showcased 12 different looks.
Mother Goose (McKellen) and her husband Vic (Bishop) run an Animal Sanctuary for waifs and strays, and they live a wholesome life inside an abandoned Debenhams. But when a goose (Casey) flies in, will fame and fortune get the better of them?! Will Ma’s feathers be seriously ruffled? Will Pa tell everyone to get stuffed? And is their fair life about to turn fowl?
Get ready for fairies with hefty vocal cords, puppets with tap dance qualifications and impeccably constructed mayhem that will quack up the whole family. This hilarious family-friendly mother of all pantos is the ultimate theatrical feast full of fun, farce and more than a couple of surprises that will make you honk out loud.
Also on the cast for the UK and Ireland tour is Anna-Jane Casey, one of our stage greats, as Cilla The Goose, Oscar Conlon-Morrey as Jack, Simbi Akande as Jill, Sharon Ballard as Good Fairy Encanta and Karen Mavundukure as Evil Fairy Malignia. The cast is completed by Adam Brown, Gabriel Fleary, Richard Leeming, Genevieve Nicole, Mairi Barclay, Becca Francis, Shailan Gohil, and Laura Tyrer.
Sir Ian McKellen, whose film credits include Richard III; Gods & Monsters; Lord of the Rings; X-Men; Beauty & the Beast, is no stranger to the theatre haven played Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the Old Vic in 2004 and 2005 and King Lear at the Duke of York’s in 2018. He began his professional career in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre as a member of their highly regarded repertory company before making his first West End appearance in 1965.
Comedian and presenter John Bishop performed stand-up comedy for the first time in Manchester in October 2000, and his first appeared on TV was in 2007 on the RTÉ topical-comedy show The Panel. Since then, he has starred in Doctor Who, The Accused, and Fearless, hosted his own shows, including The John Bishop Show, John Bishop’s Ireland, John Bishop’s Belugas, and toured the nation as a stand-up comedian, including the John Bishop: Right Here, Right Now in 2022.
A West End star for over three decades Anna-Jane Casey was most recently seen as Fraulein Kost in the award-winning production of Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club. Her many other West End credits include Velma Kelly in Chicago, Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot, Lady of the Lake in Spamalot, Anita in West Side Story, Rizzo in Grease, Buffy, Dinah and Pearl in Starlight Express and Rumpleteazer in Cats.
Mother Goose will play at New Theatre Oxford from 07 to 11 March 2023. Intriguingly, Mother Goose was the Christmas Show at New Theatre Oxford four years after it opened in 1934. But today, in an unapologetic celebration of the enduring power of panto beyond the festive months of November and December, this very special show is the first of its kind to tour the country and play in venues across the country all the way to Easter.
For all of us, the story of Mother Goose is good because it allows a little bit of flexibility in the telling as opposed to other pantomimes that are quite defined, which means for me, I’ve got a part really, says John, when asked why he chose to be a part of the show and what it means to him.
He continues: “Because I am the Father Goose, as it were, I am married to Mother Goose. Peter Pan can’t have a sister. That helps; that’s why Mother Goose works as a story. But it’s also, right now, a story of our time. People are desperate for money and fame, and that is the story of Mother Goose, and on that journey, they lose something, and that’s what this story is: it’s trying to get people focused on what’s important.
On playing the part of a pantomime dame, Ian McKellen, who played the panto dame Twanky in Aladdin, said: “Well, there are lots of sorts of dames, aren’t there? From men in frocks who look nothing like women, and that’s fine, right to the other end of totally-convincing women. RuPaul and Danny Leroux used to be in pantomime, who you would think was a woman until he spoke.
What am I doing here, then? What’s the point? Well, I asked Jonathan Harvey – who’s written so wonderfully for Coronation Street (and created the character I played in Coronation Street for 10 episodes) – if he could think of an iconic sort of strong woman who would fit into Coronation Street called Mother Goose.
“And I think that is what he’s come up with. She’s strong, but she’s also flawed. Aren’t we all? What’s the point of a man playing her? I don’t know. I don’t know, but there’s plenty of feminine stuff inside me, and that will come to the fore.
Mother Goose is produced by Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, Gavin Kalin Productions, Hunter Arnold, Seaview, Wessex Grove, Richard Winkler & Dawn Smalberg, Caiola Productions and George Waud for Groove International.
It is written by Jonathan Harvey (Coronation Street, Gimme Gimme Gimme) and directed by award-winning director Cal McCrystal. Set and Costume design is by Liz Ascroft, Choreography by Lizzi Gee, Lighting design by Prema Mehta, Sound design by Ben Harrison and Puppet Design and Creation by Chris Barlow. The casting is by Anne Vosser, and the Production Manager is Ben Arkell.