Words: Matt Todd
It’s long been an open secret that the best panto in London, adult or otherwise, is at the Above The Stag Theatre in Vauxhall, the UK’s only specifically LGBT theatre.
The theatre started a decade ago in a small room, literally, above The Stag pub in Victoria and, after the pub was demolished in 2013, the theatre moved to a small venue in Vauxhall.
This summer the theatre moved again, to a shiny renovated new purpose built home under the Arches on Vauxhall Embankment.
The venue is committed to bringing a mix of bawdy comedys, musicals and serious plays; classics and new writing, but the big gay pantomimes are a real treat.
This years, the first in the big new venue, is Mother Goose Cracks One Out. It’s set in the fictional northern town of Rugburn where Mother Goose, a poverty stricken hairdresser works in a run down salon with her son, Gay Tommy, who is in a relationship with Chester, the closeted son of the local Mill owner.
Mother Goose is in trouble with her landlord, a man who’s always had a crush on her, and things are looking bleak. But then a Golden egg laying Goose with a thick Glaswegian accent arrives and Mother and Gay Tommys fortunes are turned around.
The Above The Stag pantos are written by Jon Bradfield and Martin Hopper and are not for the faint hearted.
There are jokes about every sexual proclivity you’ve ever heard of and probably some you haven’t. These are properly filthy. But the audience knows what its getting and with the slapstick and pantomime staples; a sing-along, a fairy or two and a wicked Queen, Mother Goose, as ever, it’s an absolute blast.
As usual, what also makes this better than your average gay panto is that it is not, at heart, cynical. There’s always a touch of romance and this year the writers have taken a step further towards musical theatre territory with all the songs being original compositions – one or two may even bring a tear to your eye.
There is something touching about seeing a traditional British family art form featuring gay characters.
But what, ultimately, is so great about Mother Goose is the comedy. Filthy it may be but performed by a genuinely funny cast, lead by the hysterical show stealing Matthew Baldwin as Mother Goose, and packed with an up for it audience, it’s hands down, the funniest thing I’ve seen all year.
No play, musical, stand up of film I’ve seen in 2019 has made me laugh as much as this did. Liam Woodlands-Mooney makes a handsome and game Gay Tommy and the rest of the cast, including Laura Blair as Priscilla the Goose and Christian Andrews as closted Chester, skilfully directed by Andrew Beckett, all help make this a glorious, festive joy.
If you live in London, you should make the Above The Stag Panto's an essential part of your Christmas tradition as soon as you can.
Mother Goose Cracks One Out runs until January 12 at the Above The Stag Theatre, 72 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TP.
Images by PBGstudios.