Mother Goose, Yeovil Octagon

A FULL-fledged pantomime is back on stage at the Octagon in Yeovil this season, once again starring those local favourites Gordon Cooper, Jack Glanville and Lizzie Frances, and giving the audience a chance to join in – even behind the advisory masks.

It’s Paul Hendy’s new version of Mother Goose, the timeliest of pantomime stories for these days of selfies and self-obsession. Paul and his wife Emily came to the Octagon with their Evolution Pantomimes 11 years ago. Now their company is one of the country’s biggest panto producers, and their sure touch has brought marvellous and memorable shows to Yeovil each year.

The pantomime story of Mother Gooses originated in the 18th century with Perrault’s collection of fairy tales. It tells the story of a kind, loving and popular woman who risks her friends and family in her quest for beauty and eternal youth.  Of course, being panto, the stage version is full of baddies and goodies and it all comes out right in the end. Low self-esteem and mental health issues, prayed in aid of present-day vanity, envy and inexcusable behaviour, don’t get a look in here.  All you need, as John and Paul said, is love.

Once again the Evolution team has created a terrific show, using the Octagon’s wide stage to full effect, with a small but talented and energetic chorus and powerful principals.  If you happen to reside in a town near Yeovil, you might just get trashed in the script – Weymouth and Chard are popular targets for derision. This really is LOCAL pantomime. And of course every annual Dame needs a new man, and he’ll be sitting somewhere near the front of the audience. This year the game victim even gets a T-shirt to take home to commemorate his participation.

As regulars will know, Gordon Cooper (who cut his teeth at Exeter Northcott on the apron-strings of Steve Bennett) is a few years younger than his “son” played by Jack Glanville, but they have developed a wonderfully warm and witty relationship and the speed of their improvised repartee gets them out of most glitches.  Lizzie Frances, here as Fairy Goodfeather, spends most of her time in the air, cheered on by the eager audience. Matt Daines, last seen on the Octagon stage as one of the Ugly Sisters, returns as the demonic director, a narcissistic baddie with a euphemistic “eye” for the ladies, but a true concentration on his mirror.

And talking of pantomime set pieces, Matt and Gordon do a perfect mirror scene, as well as the inevitable “ghost bench” (they’ll have to do it again then, won’t they!) and Yeovil’s own invention, the handcart of hilarity.

There is enough in this script to delight children, parents and even those of a more intellectual and even existential persuasion.

It is on at the Octagon until 2nd January, and it has everything you want from a family pantomime, and more besides.


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