By Morgan Brind
Little Wolf Entertainment and Derby LIVE
Whenever you see the company name Little Wolf on a panto poster, you know exactly what to expect: a spectacular show with sparkle, a glitzy set and amazing special effects.
The only drawback for four venues in 2023 is that Morgan Brind, one of the two co-founders of Little Wolf, won’t be appearing there. That’s because he’s on stage as usual at Derby Arena, this time donning eggs-travagantly outrageous frocks in the lead role in Mother Goose.
The formula for the Derby panto has proved successful, so Little Wolf see no reason to change it. The whole spectacle is built around Brind who also writes the script and designs the production. He won best dame at the UK Pantomime Awards for his portrayal of Nurse Nancy Nightley in Sleeping Beauty in 2021, so it would seem as daft as some of the gags in the show to abandon the format.
The panto features Mother Goose, the owner of a bird sanctuary in the Derbyshire village of Squalkstone, who has virtually everything she needs, including a goose that lays golden eggs. But her main wish is to be beautiful so she makes a pact with Demon Vanity who aims to spread chaos and capture people’s souls.
Brind takes centre stage with his egg-sellent performance, sharp ad libs and naturalistic interaction with children. He can also make the most of unexpected episodes, exemplified by losing his grip on a frying pan as he was hitting dough balls into the audience.
But this is definitely not a one-person show. Todd Boyce, known for playing serial killer Stephen Reid in Coronation Street, does a creditable job on his panto debut as Demon Vanity, getting plenty of boos from an enthusiastic audience.
Three actors who were in Aladdin 12 months ago are back. Kristian Cunningham who played the lead character in 2022 has a better opportunity to show his comedy side as Mother Goose’s son Benedict; Nicola Martinus-Smith shows her sunny personality as Benedict’s friend Rosemary; and Ben Tanner never gets in a flap as the golden egg-laying goose Shelly Bassey.
Djalenga Scott reaches great heights as Fairy Charity, not just because of her aerial antics but also due to her winning disposition which means everyone is rooting for her. She gets some of the best lines in Brind’s cleverly worded script, especially in scenes using rhyming couplets.
Roddy Peters, no stranger to Little Wolf pantos, shows his versatility in several roles, the main one being Baron Wasteland who is turned by Demon Vanity from a well-loved philanthropist into a mean egotist.
The comedy in Mother Goose might not be to everyone’s taste. A scene in Pizza Eggspress in which Mother Goose manages to cover Benedict in flour and other ingredients is particularly contrived.
On press night there were also occasional problems with some of the microphones and unbalanced sound levels in the cavernous Derby Arena.
Overall, though, Little Wolf have egg-celled themselves with this show. Even if you don’t honk with laughter or get goosebumps, it’s a cracking tale that’s worth a gander.
* This review originally appeared on the British Theatre Guide website