Mother Goose, Shrewsbury, 2018/19

Owen Lewis – Love Shrewsbury

Take an oversized goose, a man in a frock, a narcissistic baddy, a flying fairy, a bevy of villagers and some hilarious one-liners, put them all together and you’re half way to creating the perfect pantomime. To complete the other half bring in Brad Fitt, Eric Smith, Victoria Mc.Cabe, Lisa Davina Phillip, Matt Dines, and Matt Dalen. Mix for at least two acts and there it is…the recipe for a perfect Pantomime.

Theatre Severn have always prided themselves on their Christmas Panto and the combination of Brad Fitt, Paul Hendy and Emily Wood has proved again this year, to be a winning formula.

One could just reel out a list of superlatives and that might come close to describing how good this show is but never one for lists, I think I will fill in the blanks with some more words, to help you understand just what a great show this is.

Observing all the rules of Panto quite apart from the obvious “Oh yes I did,” or “Its behind you,” slapstick fun, this show also offers the pathos and the subtleties that turns a silver egg into a golden one. This is a golden egg of a show.

Brad Fitt again this year excels. Is he the funniest man around? Maybe: No costume too great and nothing he won’t do. He is a daring and multi -talented performer. He makes it look easy and yet there is so much going on that he has to be aware of, but he still finds room for a quick impro’d joke or remark and the audience love him for it.

The sense of fun the players bring to everything they do is what makes this show so moreish.

From the flying Fairy Goodfeather’s opening introduction you know you are in for a great experience. Lisa Davina Phillip makes a wonderful fairy and wins hearts almost immediately. Luckily she seems to have no issue with vertigo as she spends 90% of her performance time flying across the stage at a substantial height. Hilarious.

Eric Smith’s much beleaguered Squire Squashem is a wonderfully observed role. Initially he appears mean and cruel , however he comes round and Eric catches foibles and little idiosyncrasies that bring this ludicrously named Squire Squashem to life. He is great fun to watch.

Billy Goose and Jill Goose, offspring of the eponymous Mother Goose are loved by the children and they shouted and cheered every time they arrived on the stage. Wonderful; both Matt Dallen and Victoria Mc.Cabe  win hearts and minds almost immediately as the children know that even though there may be baddies ahead  Billy and Jill are their  friends and nothing bad will befall us.

Then of course you meet the archetypical baddy, Demon Vanity. Played spectacularly by Matt Daines. He really is an admirable villain and gets all the Boos and Hisses that children have been dishing out at Panto baddies for centuries. Baddies have to appear from the left as left is considered sinister, sini coming from the word for left. That’s just a little convention that these guys have nailed.

The big spend this year has to be the introduction of 3D I will tell you no more for fear of spoiling your enjoyment if you are planning to go to the show. What can be said as fact is, it is utterly amazing. One has seen 3D used before but now creative thinkers are beginning to see the value of 3D as a convention. It is so good. One imagines prior that, maybe it won’t fool you however I dare you to try and look unsurprised at just how good this technology is becoming and how well deployed it is in this show.

Adults tend to put up with these shows “for the sake of the children,” not so at Theatre Severn. The parents were booing, hissing, shouting and cheering louder than the children. Immersion into plot and suspended disbelief appears to be no problem for the Shrewsbury audience.

There is a language developing year on year between the audience and the regular players as whilst there is no reference to other panto’s per se, there are moments that reflect former shows. It’s called intertextuality and reinforces the joke as audience remember they have laughed along before, but that works as an asset as the anticipation of what is about to occur builds and the audience know there is going to be something hilarious that they feel in on.  

What beautiful dancers, from as young of about 9 to about 13 the children dancers were amazing. Not a foot wrong, no egos or one up-manship just a dedicated bunch of children who, it seems to this reviewer were not only intent on getting it right but on making it great. They did.

It’s well done to the whole cast and crew. Every one of them is partly responsible for the stars this review will receive. They work together as a team and plaudits belong to all, not just the few at the front getting the applause, a portion of that applause is to be diverted for everyone who made this possible from costume design to sound to the wonderful lighting and props. The choreographers, the musicians, the writers, producer and director all proved their worth tonight.

This is a truly great show and fully deserves the maximum it shall earn. 

But before I close, as I do every year, I want to thank David Jack the Venue Manager and the rest of the team at Theatre Severn for bringing such a wide and varied programme to the theatre, this year as you do every year. I personally want to extend my thanks and wish everyone in Theatre Severn all the very best for the coming festivities.

Just one job left for me this year and that is to wish to you all a very Merry Christmas and I hope that 2019 turns out to be the one you have waited for. Thank you for reading me. You only have one job left to do too and that is to like and share this article throughout the shire so no one misses the show.

This is a Five Star Review.

Chris Eldon Lee – Shropshire events and Whats on

What! No Wedding? Surely not!

Mother Goose is certainly an unusual Christmas entertainment. In producer Brad Fitt’s hands, it is very much a Proper Panto…but memories of the ancient Greek morality tale lie very close to the surface – with its issues of selflessness, forgiveness and how inner beauty is more important than how you look. And for today’s snap-chat youngsters, who may be struggling with self-image, it’s a tale well worth telling.

The story first appeared as a British pantomime in 1806, with the clown Joey Grimaldi in the lead role. One hundred years later, Den Leno was playing the part in Drury Lane. So, our own, beloved Brad is in good company.

What is so clever about Fitt’s production (and Paul Hendy’s writing) is how he operates in two separate realities at the same time…being totally committed to purveying the story line for the kiddies, whilst constantly taking the rise out of the genre for those of us who like to think we’re vaguely grown up.

Of course, the Dame is clearly in love within the goose … even though it’s actually “a seven-foot budgie outfit with a random villager inside it”. How random becomes evident when its legs are a different shape every time it comes on.

Naturally, the kids get all the egg jokes – “Eggs Factor”. “Don’t Egg-sert yourself”. “Why should you roll eggs down the old A5? Because it’s the best way to Atch-em”. But, for the intellectuals, there’s an allegorical dance reference to Swan Lake and a joke about Eggs-istentialism. And as Brad says (every year) “You don’t get that in the Telford Panto”.

Brad Fitt is the Rolls Royce of Dames, effortlessly purring through the panto with so much self-deprecation every mother loves him. He’s also fearless enough to be turned upside down on wires and dunked into his own Heath Robinson Beauty-Matic contraption from quite a height. Sometime this Christmas, he will notch up 500 panto performances in Shrewsbury. He’s so much part of the town’s tradition, they should oust Charles Darwin from his chair outside the Library and put Brad Fitt up there instead.

The surprise star of the show is the joyful Fairy Goodfeather, played with boundless Caribbean charisma by Lisa Davina Phillip. Her feet barely touch the ground as she gags and giggles her way through the show, embracing the audience with her wicked wit and wonderful warmth. She’s more than a match for the narcistic Demon Vanity (Matt Daines) who has the air of Simon Cowell about him. And whilst they are mining television images, I must say that seeing Eric Smith dressed as Claudia Wrinkleman is more of a shock than a surprise. Just wait till she finds out!

The much-loved routines are all present and correct…but with incremental twists in the endless quest for being “better than last year”. In the wheel barrow this time are oodles of shop signs for Billy Goose (played by a super-charged Matt Dallen) to pun about … and when the lovely Victoria McCabe joins the fellas on the infamous wooden panto bench, the game is raised again. This year the ghosts and ghoulies are not villagers in white sheets, but 3-D images that leap out from the stage right at you. And with present-day panto tradition firmly in mind, one apparition is armed with a very effective virtual water pistol. The audience all wear 3-D spectacles for this scene … and resemble a mass meeting of the Eldon John Fan Club.

It is very refreshing to see a panto that is so rarely played, the audience must pay attention to the plot. And I very much appreciated the storyline’s values in today’s increasingly vacuous society. And, of course, I laughed my socks off.

Chris Pritchard – Shropshire Live

When you have a reputation for delivering one of the best pantomimes in the area then you must be under pressure to produce something even more spectacular each year. Mother Goose doesn’t disappoint with a stellar cast, fantastic costumes, dancers and scenery. There are also some surprises along the way… Starring Shropshire’s favourite Dame, Brad Fitt as Mother Goose and Eric Smith from BBC Radio Shropshire as Squire there’s plenty of fun for all the family. Victoria McCabe and Matt Dallen who starred in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs also return to the Theatre Severn stage in the roles of Jill and Billy Goose. Matt Daines, who appeared two years ago as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella plays Demon Vanity, while Lisa Davina Phillip makes her first appearance in Shrewsbury as Fairy Goodfeather. From the start of the show with Lisa Davina Phillip flying in as Fairy Goodfeather to the final scene, there’s a real warm feel to the show with a perfectly chosen cast. The laugh out loud moments are plentiful, with some brilliantly timed comedy and plenty of opportunities for audience participation of “it’s behind you”, boos and hisses. There’s also a fantastic update to a very classic part of the Theatre Severn pantomime in which 3D glasses are required. However, those scared of ghosts or spiders may want to look away. If you have already booked your ticket then enjoy the show you will love it. If you haven’t got your tickets yet then be quick and book today, there’s less than 10% of ticket availability left. Congratulations to all the cast and team at Evolution who have been producing pantomimes at Theatre Severn since 2011, this year is another triumph.