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Mother Goose: Ian McKellen and cast tease ‘the best pantomime you could see’

Performances of Mother Goose will start in Brighton before touring the UK.

By Alastair James

John Bishop, Mel Giedroyc, and Sir Ian McKellen launch Mother Goose.
John Bishop, Mel Giedroyc, and Sir Ian McKellen launch Mother Goose. (Photo: Craig Sugden)

Sir Ian McKellen wants people to experience the panto of their dreams in a new production of Mother Goose, in which he will play the titular dame.

On Monday (3 October), Sir Ian along with comedian John Bishop and presenter-actress Mel Giedroyc announced they will be leading this latest production.

Mother Goose is set to land in Brighton starting 3 December and play across the UK until April 2023.

After emerging from a golden egg outside The Londoner Hotel in London’s Leicester Square, the three sat down with Attitude to talk about what fans can expect from the new panto.

Ian starts, “We want Mother Goose to be the best pantomime you could possibly see in your life, that’s what I want.

“I want people to come and see this panto and say ‘it was the pantomime of my dreams and my son enjoyed and so did my grandson.'”

“It’s an amazing gang”

On what they’re excited about the most John and Mel both highlight the superb cast that has been assembled.

As well as Ian, John, and Mel, Mother Goose will star Oscar Conlon-Morrey, Simbi Akande, Sharon Ballard, Karen Mavundukure, Adam Brown, Gabriel Fleary, Richard Leeming, and Genevieve Nicole.

John Bishop, who will play Mother Goose’s husband, Vic, says of working with the legend that is Sir Ian McKellen, “There’s something about coming into this experience from my angle which is part of the reason why you want to do it.

“In the short time we’ve spent together I’ve seen his commitment to making everything as good as it can be. The energy to drive things is bottomless. It’s what going to make this a special event.”

Mel, who takes the role of the Goose, adds, “It’s an amazing gang. There is a whole wealth of talent. They’ve been hand plucked and it’s going to be extraordinary to see the level of singing and dancing.”

John Bishop, Mel Giedroyc, and Sir Ian McKellen announce Mother Goose
John Bishop, Mel Giedroyc, and Sir Ian McKellen launch Mother Goose. (Photo: Craig Sugden)

“It’s a good moral”

A synopsis for the play reads: “Mother Goose and her husband Vic run an Animal Sanctuary for waifs and strays and live a wholesome life inside an abandoned Debenhams. But when a goose flies in, will fame and fortune get the better of them?!”

Discussing the story, the cast indicates that like all pantomimes, there is a strong message that lies at the heart of it.

“Mother Goose as happily married as she is, blessed with the gift of the golden egg as she is, is still not happy because rights at the back of her mind is, ‘if things had been a bit different, I might have been famous, glamorous, and adored. And she gives away the goose for that and we see that it doesn’t in her case work out,” explains Ian.

Mel adds that given “the triple whammy” of the pandemic, Brexit, and the government and the social and economic situation the UK now finds itself in as a result, the story takes on an extra level in 2022.

“A story which deals with people who have nothing, they have happiness but nothing materially, being offered this huge disgusting scale of riches is really poignant and pertinent to out time. I think we’re going to have to tread carefully, actually.

“The story is saying the best things in life are free – your family, friends, and love. The golden eggs are a poisoned chalice. It’s a good moral,” she tells us.

And after a rough couple of years, Mel thinks some escapism is necessary.

John Bishop, Mel Giedroyc, and Sir Ian McKellen launch Mother Goose.
John Bishop, Mel Giedroyc, and Sir Ian McKellen launch Mother Goose. (Photo: Craig Sugden)

“It’s panto time.”

Throughout the morning the three leads have shown delightful chemistry indicating that this will be a very fun panto to watch.

Panto’s are well known for ad-libbing and improvisation. This is something all three are looking forward to getting into to

As a stand-up comic John is used to a certain level of improvising on stage. It’s his bread and butter.

“But when you’re in a club you’re dealing with somebody who’s probably had too much to drink who thinks they’re being funny,” he says.

“In the panto, it could be a six-year-old kid who’s not trying to be funny but is asking a serious question like, ‘why is the goose so big?’ So, it’ll be slightly different.”

Mel thinks audiences will see a different side to Sir Ian McKellen than they’re used to.

“I’ve seen this morning a major twinkle in Sir Ian McKellen’s eye that made me think he is going to be playing on that stage. He’s going to have a lot of fun. I can see that already.”

For all three it’s a no-brainer to do something which will bring joy to audiences during a hard time.

Suitably, Ian ends with, “I’m very excited. It’s panto time.”

The Attitude September/October issue is out now.