Mark Ludmon is dazzled by the glittering, outrageous new panto at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Royal Vauxhall Tavern
The classic fairy tale of Mother Goose is given more twists than a contortionist playing Twister in the new pantomime, Goosed, at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. It’s full of all the broad comedy, saucy innuendo, silliness and audience interaction that families relish in a festive panto but this is definitely not one for the kids.
Written by Tim Benzie and Paul Joseph, it is a rollercoaster of a ride through clubland – a world of leather-clad coppers, Grindr-tapping twinks and trash-talking fairies. Mother is the boss of the Goose Tavern in far-off Vauxhall-land who, along with her handsome but dim bar manager Jack, is trying to come up with new ways to pull in the punters. They are about to face new competition from the evil green-hued Kelly-Anne Con-Witch who is planning to open the new Embassy club in time for the inaugural visit of President Hump from AmerikeeLand. Fairy Lamé seems to have the answer with her version of Mother Goose’s “golden egg” but all – obviously – doesn’t quite go to plan.
The plot draws on the Royal Vauxhall Tavern’s own story, fighting off threats from developers while building work begins nearby on the new US Embassy, but, despite the odd in-joke, you need not be an RVT regular to enjoy the show. It is peppered with topical references and pop culture, not least the superb boo-worthy villain inspired by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway. The jokes come fast and razor sharp like a knife thrower on Red Bull. At times, the wit is so clever, it takes a moment for the laugh, or groan, to come but the pace never lets up and the quickfire comedy powers ahead.
With great energy and comic timing, it features a talented cast led by Robert McNeilly as the fabulous Mother Goose, resplendent in her bushy beard and gorgeous frocks, alongside a winningly winsome Richard Watkins as Jack and cabaret star Topsie Redfern who gives a superb, typically spot-on performance as the villainous Kelly-Anne Con-Witch. Alan Hunter revels in the role of Jack’s leather-clad love interest, Finn, while Faye Reeves often steals the show as a fairy who offers up glitter, glee and grumpiness in equal measures.
With plenty of gag-filled songs under musical director Aaron Clingham, the panto is sharply directed by Tim McArthur, keeping the chaos of panto under slick control. Somehow, it all happens on the tiny Royal Vauxhall Tavern stage – where the dressing room is the gents’ loo – with a creative, glittering set designed by Arron Cooke and glorious costumes by Bourgeoisie of Cut A Bitch Designs. But through “the magic of theatre”, it all comes together into a show that is very funny, often lewd and always a delight.
Running to January 4, 2018