"Delight in the daftness!" - Mother Goose at Sheffield Lyceum

Oscar Conlon Morrey, Ian McKellen and John Bishop in Mother Goose. Photo by Manuel HarlanOscar Conlon Morrey, Ian McKellen and John Bishop in Mother Goose. Photo by Manuel Harlan
Oscar Conlon Morrey, Ian McKellen and John Bishop in Mother Goose. Photo by Manuel Harlan
John Bishop and Ian McKellen team up for Mother Goose in Sheffield - here's our verdict on the riotous result.

YOU don’t have to love panto — as Ian McKellen clearly does — to enjoy Mother Goose, but it helps.

You don’t have to love McKellen, as the audience affectionately demonstrated over and over, but you’d be missing out on experiencing a giant of the stage having the time of his life at the age of 83.

It’s all enormous fun, a proper panto, with McKellen the luminous star as Mother Goose in an unlikely, yet winning, double act with stand-up comedian John Bishop — who of course, as McKellen cheekily points out, is not a proper actor.

McKellen doesn’t disappoint in his first panto for 15 years, playing the indomitable Caroline Goose in riotous fashion.

From fluffy nightie, Beefeater dress and a string of other fabulous outfits, McKellen can still do it all — singing, dancing and chucking eggs at the audience, smirking through scores of double entendres and making even the awful,  unfunny ones seem hilarious. It’s the way he tells them.

A running gag about him drifting off into playing Gandalf as the theme music to Tolkien’s blockbuster films plays, punctures any pomposity.

And he even goes back to Shakespeare as he stops the show to break into the “quality of mercy” speech from The Merchant of Venice.

McKellen looks genuinely in awe when Bishop retorts in the acting stakes with a beautifully-delivered sonnet from the Bard deserving of the fake Oscar he gets.

Bishop, plays husband Vic as a disarming, low-key foil to McKellen’s larger than life character.

He comes on at the start as a warm up to urge us to embrace the show — and we do.

Topically, the Gooses and their sanctuary of animals are completely skint living in an empty Debenhams store during a cost of living crisis.

They cannot afford to pay their energy bills until a rescued goose — Cilla Quack (geddit?) — begins to lay golden eggs.

Another clever running joke is to get the audience to angrily repeat the words “energy companies” whenever mentioned. Cruella Braverman and a pig in a school tie sounding like Boris Johnson get big laughs, and there’s a neat line about a llama who identifies as a donkey, though royal consort Camilla is too easy a target.

Jonathan Harvey’s script is hardly satire or subtle but all part of the rollicking spirit that pervades.

Cal McCrystal’s direction creates glorious chaos throughout.

A wonderful cast includes Oscar Conlon-Morrey who displays an incredible voice and amazing energy as son Jack, Anna-Jane Casey is suitably quackers as Cilla and Adam Brown delights as the King of Gooseland, complete with exploding wand.

There are some great song and dance performances with superb vocals from fairies  Encanta (Sharon Ballard) and Malignia (Karen Mavundukure).

You don’t need to brush up your Shakespeare — just delight in the daftness.

Mother Goose is at Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday February 18.