IT’S said that Elaine C. Smith once called Mother Goose “the Hamlet of pantos”, and it’s easy to see why. It’s the story that requires a bit of subtle acting from the Dame, as she acquires sudden wealth, and morphs from a contented old lady to one who longs for love, and for the eternal youth and beauty she thinks will help her to find it.
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As panto stories go, it’s relatively complex; and it’s therefore slightly puzzling to find Perth Theatre adopting an Alan McHugh version that complicates it much further by throwing in an Italian circus setting, a good fairy who’s really a teacher from a local posh school, and a huge role for the villain Diavolo, who seems to be hogging much of the action long before Mother Goose has undergone the change that makes her vulnerable to his evil. Under the circumstances, it’s therefore not surprising that Barrie Hunter, as Dame and leading lady, looks exceptionally anxious throughout; it’s almost the interval before Priscilla the goose, oddly played by a gangly six-foot bloke, even gets to lay a golden egg.
A few narrative misjudgments apart, though, this is a jolly, colourful and slightly exotic panto, with plenty of talent among the ensemble, and among the tiny dancers from local schools. There’s no shortage of traditional panto routines – including egg-citing egg jokes – and the audience participation goes with a swing; and if the mood is a little less convivial than it might be, that’s because we see too much of the villain, and not enough of the forces of sweetness and light that finally defeat him.