It’s a lot of fun.
Mother Goose, starring Ian McKellen with John Bishop, is essentially a traditional pantomime, complete with absurd storyline, corny jokes, audience participation and of course, a dame.
In a pretty negative review, the Guardian said that if you were just going to see McKellen do his dame, you wouldn’t be disappointed, but that the rest of the show is underpowered. It is true that McKellen is really what the show is about: he is brilliant and it’s astonishing that at his age, he can take on a run of this length (touring till April). I think the Guardian is also right that when he briefly does a bit of Shakespeare straight, you kind of wish he would forget the panto and carry on. It is at least a welcome acknowledgement that he has played other parts besides Gandalf, a rôle we are reminded of perhaps a little too often here.
Yes, it’s true the jokes are not very sharp, especially the handful of political ones, but then this is panto, not satire. Granted, there is a sort of uneasiness about a pantomime with no children in the audience (a point they make a joke of). And I really wish they hadn’t decided to wrap things up with a rousing singalong of Sweet Caroline.
But… it’s a lot of fun.