When even the smallest of theatre venues seems to rely on the draw of a household name to put bums on seats at panto time, it is a real credit to Oldham Coliseum that it fills the auditorium on the quality of the show alone.
This is in large part down to regular Fine Time Fontayne, who has both co-written the script with director Kevin Shaw and stars as the pantomime dame, Mother Goose. In this story the dame leads the action, and Fontayne fills the stage with warmth, humour and a series of outrageous costumes. His transformation into Wonder Woman is hilarious.
The villain of the piece is Adonis Anthony, who makes a dashing Demon of Discontent, with his camp catchphrase, ‘Don’t you just love me?’ leading the kids to let out an ear-busting ‘No!’
If you’ve been to the Coliseum pantomime before, in many ways it’s exactly what you’d expect. All the pantomime traditions are intact, the production and performances are as high-quality as ever, and there are topical twists and heaps of energy to keep it fresh.
It’s all brightly designed by Celia Perkins, and there are plenty of lively songs to keep the energy high. Tram-spotting Squire Grabbit, King of Gooseland’s ode to the Metrolink is a stroke of genius, both in the writing and Simeon Truby’s top-speed delivery.
The real magic of this family show is for young children. The theatre auditorium itself helps, in that no seat is very far from the stage action, ensuring that the kids feel right at the centre of it. Yes, we’ve all seen the ghost scene before, but since every time it results in the climax of the shouting, why change a good thing? Richard J Fletcher (Billy Goose) and Justine Elizabeth Bailey (Colin Goose) pile heaps of energy and mirth into the traditional decorator slap-stick scene – here spectacularly messing up the baking of a pudding. And fight director Renny Krupinski choreographs an exciting, swashbuckling finale.
I took my three-year-old nephew and he was engrossed in the story from start to finish. With a joyous school party in front of us and a coach trip of lively pensioners behind, it’s fair to say that the show’s appeal spans all ages and is undoubtedly another festive winner for the Coliseum.
Mother Goose is at Oldham Coliseum from 14 November 2015 to 9 January 2016.