Excellent acting, flowing music and an entertaining script at Pateley pantomime

Cast of Mother Goose. Picture by Chris Iredale
Cast of Mother Goose. Picture by Chris Iredale

Every two years we are treated to a splendid home grown pantomime at the Pateley Playhouse.

This year Rachel Joynson wrote and directed ‘Mother Goose’, backed by a strong cast and talented back room crew and she served up a real treat.

Unusually, for Playhouse performances, the curtains were closed as the excited and responsive audience took their places, but a harp glissando soon introduced the good fairy, Angelica, played with elegance and warmth, by Jo Jefferson. Speaking clearly in rhyming couplets, she began to set the scene for us, but was interrupted by her sister the bad fairy Demonica, who entered to loud organ chords. Angelica was all white, but Demonica, played by Rachel Joynson herself, was all in red with malevolence oozing from her fingertips. Here we had a worthy villain. The costumes and characterisation were superb, these two characters carrying the story on at every stage, relishing their troubled relationship. Their song of loving and loathing was, later, a highlight of the show.

As the curtains opened we saw the seven young chorus members with brooms, bemoaning their lot in a song and dance routine, the first of a number of occasions in which they played many roles, invariably delivered with committed energy and verve. Mind you, they quickly left off working when our hero, Jack Goose (played by Brenna Smith), looking very handsome and dapper, strode in with a suitable swagger which hid his feelings of despair, having returned penniless from London.

Peter Buller, as Mother Goose, made his entrance and immediately lifted our spirits with slick repartee. Although a regular in the Pateley Panto scene, this was Peter’s first time in the dame part, and it fitted him like a glove. His ability to work with the audience and other members of the cast was excellent, being considerably enhanced by a series of eye catching outfits, which he wore with panache. Mother Goose’s dresses, wigs and shoes showed off her physical attributes admirably! She was a real scene-stealer.

Billy Goose, the second son, played by Jaxom Smith, was very different from his adventurous brother. Not the brightest of young men, nevertheless the audience warmed to him and encouraged him as he told a series of excruciating jokes, which thankfully seemed to improve as the Panto progressed. He was such a likable character, with ever improving timing and an ability to sing in a number of styles, but even with the help of his enormous book of gags, he got more groans than laughs.

Jack and Billy worked together very well, as only siblings can (!), giving us amusing and tuneful routines to enjoy. The song of Jack’s longing to be a billionaire was especially good, ending, as it did, with Billy’s excellent turn as a rapper.

Bombastic Squire Skinflint, played with relish by Iain Johnson, was the grasping landlord, greedily playing with the happiness of not only the Goose family, but his own daughter, Jill, who loved Jack. His two henchmen, Ron1 and Ron 2, (Nevin Ward and Darryl Hall), were hilarious as would-be tough guys with no brain between them. Their routine, with Squire Skinflint, about money owed, was a masterpiece of clever writing and slick comic timing. We were even treated to the sight of our long-standing prompt, Sheila Smith, taking part in the action!

Connie Richards played Jill Skinflint, who wanted to marry Jack, but found that her hopes were dashed when her sweetheart returned penniless from London. Jill, always in character, lit up the stage with her lovely smile. Jack and Jill sang beautifully together, tugging at our heart strings.

The final character to make her entrance was Priscilla the magical goose, sent by Angelica to solve the Goose family’s cash flow problems. Heather Appleton was an absolute delight as Priscilla, speaking not a word, but her so expressive face and body language spoke volumes. Of course, Demonica had to put her oar in and tricked Mother Goose into relinquishing the goose that laid the golden egg.

In their hunt for Mother Goose and Priscilla, our heroes found themselves in space – another excellent set prepared by the ever inventive stage crew. The cumulative Star trekking song was exhausting just to watch, with Jill vigorously starting the actions for each chorus and Billy, at the front, exuberantly doing everyone’s actions for them. Great fun!

All worked out well in the end, when Priscilla was released from her shackles by the solving of riddles, and ‘the world was made a better place’: Jill got her Jack, Mother Goose pinned down the Squire (was this a good idea?), the two Rons turned over a new leaf to take up knitting and the two fairies made up their differences, thanks largely to Angelica’s skills of reconciliation. We were assured of a ‘happy ever after’ ending as the pantomime finished.

We have been treated to a real family pantomime, with music enhancing the production as the narrative flowed. Craig Joynson is to be congratulated on his musical choices and arrangements. There was an entertaining script, excellent acting and singing by a cast who were clearly enjoying each other’s company, and wonderful imaginative costumes with shoes fit for Imelda Marcos!

Well done, everyone!