Tag Archives: Nathan Taylor

Mother Goose


Cambridge Arts Theatre

MOTHER GOOSE at the Cambridge Arts Theatre


“this well-produced, entertaining and colourful show is perfect for anyone of any age to start engaging in live theatre”

Cambridge’s favourite dame (Matt Crosby) returns to the annual pantomime, directed by Michael Gattrell, for festive fun in an outlandish display of costumes with bad jokes, and adlibs. This year, as Gerty Goose, the Dame’s good-nature is tested with impossible-to-refuse temptations that ultimately lead to a decision that wealth and beauty do not bring happiness.

A revolving glitterball above the auditorium and flashing disco lights during the Overture set the scene (Lighting Designer Mike Robertson). Beautifully painted show cloths representing scenes of Cambridge (Set Designer Ian Westbrook) bring a familiarity to the story. Let’s not say ‘provincial’ because this production is of West End standard.

Two rivals in the battle of good over evil – Fairy Virtue (Charlotte Wakefield) and Demon Vanity (Pippa Duffy) – face off in rhyming couplets. This is all a bit static and serious and a missed opportunity for greater cringe-worthy rhyming, but Ms Wakefield raises the roof with her two solo numbers. Ms Duffy is quite a soft villain. Only minimal thunder rolls and lightening cracks at her entrances but this is no bad thing.

Alicia Belgarde as Jill Goose, the innocent girl-next-door and potential love interest, is a delight and Gemma Sutton, as principal boy Jack Purchase, beautifully spoken. Ms Sutton is just right in her thigh-slapping role, acing her solo song when it comes. Audiences will fall in love with this wonderful couple.

“Absolute highlight of the show is the ensemble”

Performance of the night – as chosen by the children brought on stage during the performance – is that of Steven Roberts as Sammy Goose. His energy, clowning and movement are all excellent, keeping the momentum between scenes. As an audience member, I found shouting “Hello, Sammy” on each entrance just fine, but the need for a regular “Sammy-Hug” is a bit icky. A running gag about a lost dog provides some good punning. Jokes about Cambridge go down particularly well. I’m not overly impressed by the repetition of business and product names which seem rather close to product placement.

Absolute highlight of the show is the ensemble (Dance Captain Sophie Karaolis). Their colourful and eye-catching costumes (Costume Designer Sue Simmerling), swirling petticoats, wide smiles and perfect moves (Choreographer Kevan Allen) are sheer joy. Life’s a Happy Song, their song and dance. Yes, it is.

The plot is pretty thin even by panto standards (Writer Al Lockhart-Morley) and the progress into the final scene isn’t really explained but it hardly matters. Some mention of the cost of living crisis is used as an early plot device but is quickly forgotten. A few topical and political jokes fall rather flat. The traditional messy slapstick scene is not as slick as it yet may become but it is funny enough and the youngsters love it. There’s no smut.

The producer states in his welcoming speech that pantomime is the “recruiting sergeant of the theatre” and with an audience of thousands to welcome through the doors this year, this well-produced, entertaining and colourful show is perfect for anyone of any age to start engaging in live theatre.

MOTHER GOOSE at the Cambridge Arts Theatre

Reviewed on 5th December 2023

by Phillip Money

Photography by Richard Hubert Smith



Previously reviewed at this venue:

Faith Healer | ★★★ | October 2023
A Voyage Around My Father | ★★★ | October 2023
Frankenstein | ★★★★ | October 2023
The Shawshank Redemption | ★★★ | March 2023
The Homecoming | ★★★★★ | April 2022
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | February 2022
Aladdin | ★★★★ | December 2021
The Good Life | ★★ | November 2021

Mother Goose

Mother Goose

Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Anyone Can Whistle

Anyone Can Whistle


Southwark Playhouse

Anyone Can WhistleAnyone Can Whistle

Anyone Can Whistle

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 5th April 2022



“in a packed space, on a tiny runway stage, and with a very green excitable cast, Anyone Can Whistle hits all the right notes”


If a play hasn’t seen a main stage since its inception in the ‘60s, running for only twelve previews and nine performances before closing, what does that mean? And a Sondheim no less. Perhaps he was just so ahead of his time, the audience couldn’t appreciate his brilliance? Or, more likely, was it just not his best, the fly in the ointment of an otherwise flawless career?

Directed by Georgie Rankcom, Anyone Can Whistle is certainly an oddball of a musical. The plot is absurd and slightly over-complicated; the music is often stubbornly un-catchy, and crammed with lyrical mouthfuls; it just feels a bit messy for such behemoths as Sondheim and Laurents. But perhaps because the Southwark Playhouse’s production is necessarily smaller than a full west-end staging, the chaos feels magnified, almost guerrilla in energy, and you know what? It works.

Not wasting any time, the plot gets going from the first note. Greedy, corrupt mayoress Cora Hoover Hooper (Alex Young) is looking to make some quick cash, and her trusty sycophant Comptroller Schub (Danny Lane) has come up with a plan: Fake a miracle and sell tickets for the honour of seeing it.

It feels like Alex Young originated her role, she’s so perfect for it. Mincing around in a fuchsia pink fascinator and matching blazer, she’s a perfect toad, caring not a jot for her townsfolk and having a glorious time of her own. Sporting razor-sharp comic timing, she also has a spectacular voice, seemingly making very little effort to reach big rich notes after Sondheim’s trademark long breathless singing rants. Young and Lane have a really gross, potent chemistry as they plot and scheme, and in a strange twist you do find yourself almost rooting for them in the end.

The rest of the cast give off a naïve optimism, as though they’re just thrilled to be invited; indeed, for Jordan Broatch, playing J. Bowden Hapgood, the sort-of saviour of the day, this is their professional debut. On occasion I catch them grinning sweetly when the focus is elsewhere on stage, soaking it all in. For nearly any other performance this would be wildly unprofessional, but Hapgood is a doomed idealist and so it’s perfectly suiting to have someone so wide-eyed for the part.

Chrystine Symone, playing Nurse Fay Apple, the no-nonsense do-gooder, often comes across as very nervous, which she needn’t be: she has the most fantastic voice, singing honestly and without flourish in her low notes, and absolutely soaring in her top register.

Considering how little the stage is- a slender runway dividing the auditorium in two- choreographer Lisa Stevens really packs it in. I especially enjoy the little number between Hapgood and the mayoress, as they frug and bunny-hop seductively in unison.

Cory Shipp’s design reflects the cast’s unadulterated joyousness, with wild ‘70s prints and garish clashing colours. And Alex Musgrave’s lighting design takes a similar cue, making liberal use of the disco ball, along with bold washes of pink and blue.

As ever at the Southwark, the live band, led by Natalie Pound, is spot on, never missing a beat but somehow promoting that same sense of purposeful chaos. There is a slight problem with levels at the beginning, and with Sondheim being so lyric-heavy, there are moments when quieter percussion or, one supposes, much, much louder vocals would be helpful. But ultimately, it’s all a good fun mess anyhow, and the plot points make themselves known eventually.

It’s understandable that in a huge auditorium, having spent wild amounts of money on production, everyone in their black-tie best, a musical like this would feel underwhelming and confusing. But in a packed space, on a tiny runway stage, and with a very green excitable cast, Anyone Can Whistle hits all the right notes.



Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Danny With A Camera


Anyone Can Whistle

Southwark Playhouse until 7th May


Recently reviewed at this venue:
Operation Mincemeat | ★★★★★ | August 2021
Yellowfin | ★★★★ | October 2021
Indecent Proposal | ★★ | November 2021
The Woods | ★★★ | March 2022


Click here to see our most recent reviews