Portonians let loose the goose

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The 24 carat egg may have only made a guest appearance at the very end but the Young Portonians’ panto was pure gold from start to finish.

Mother Goose: The Hunt for Wee Nick took place from Wednesday to Saturday, turning Grangemouth Town Hall into a laughter-filled joy zone full of pre-Christmas spirit.

In an action-packed 120 minutes, the talented thespians took the audience on a magic carpet ride – sorry wrong panto – from the village to the land at the end of the rainbow and back again in pursuit of a small green sneak intent on creating a “Zebra Crossing in the Sky” by painting over all the colours of the rainbow.

How the Portonians got hold of the plot for the next James Bond film is a mystery, but it had everything you would want for an evening of total entertainment – singing, dancing, drama, comedy, mind control, seasick pirates, glowing hands grooving to a Max Bygraves classic, a joust Monty Python fans would have loved and a rendition of Buddy Holly’s Heartbeat on kazoo.

The star of the show is always the dame and, for the second year running, she was actually a real female of the species.

Kirsty Mather’s Mother Goose was a comic creation of epic proportions, whether she was throwing down some shapes in a dance off with a Jemima the Goose, barking nasty remarks to her family and friends while under Wee Nick’s influence or vamping it up in leopard print and a Peggy Bundy-esque beehive to belt out Rod Stewart’s Do you Think I’m Sexy, she always managed to hold the audience’s attention.

In the difficult non-speaking part of Jemima the Goose, Alison McReadie did Harpo Marx proud, managing to gain both laughs and sympathy through the medium of movement alone.

For fans of Richard Curtis romantic movie sitcoms there were actually two young couples to root for in the panto this year.

First up there was the standard love interest between the upright citizen Sir Ernest Dogood – a tall and majestic turn form Chloe Ashe – and Mother Goose’s daughter Lucy (Rachel Derry), a top class lass in glasses who stands up to her mother and looks out for her dozy brother and Jemima the Goose.

Coming across like Laurel and Hardy with a minus IQ score – or maybe any of the young couples linked to the Kardashian or Trump families – Shannon Henderson and Leah Strathie took on the challenging roles of the cerebrally challenged Harry Handless and Hetty Hopeless.

The couple were always upbeat, even in dark dramatic moments – and in fact looked like they were performing in a different panto half the time, which was the whole point of their right naive, but happy characters.

The two couples had a great time singing Total Eclipse of the Heart in an effort to reunite a feuding Mother Goose and Jemima. When you see someone trying to get a giant goose to “turn around bright eyes” you can’t help but think someone has spiked your wine gums.

The villain of the piece, the aforementioned Wee Nick aka Nicholas von Little, was expertly portrayed by Brooke Morrison, who, my wife noted, could not help but be cute as a button even when she was being an evil little blighter.

Bringing a kind of Magnus Pyke – or Professor Brian Cox – presence crossed with Jeff Goldblum weirdness to the role of the Wizard was Darren Wilson, who could sound like a college lecturer as he ran down Wee Nick’s backstory and then turn into crazy dancing Happy Monday’s maraca man Bez when the beat kicked in.

Ensuring everyone got the news was the Herald from Falkirk, a calm and collected Ellie Johnston, while Ava Maxwell was a cheerfully mystical Fairy Queen.

Working under the direction of Laura Moore, the choreography by Laura Bates was excellent – when you can come up with a routine that a five foot six inch tall goose can shake a tailfeather too, you know you’re cooking with gas.

The music was live and rocking too with musical director Shaun Johnston and the lads – Jamie Greenaway, Joe Evans and Mark Adams – surely the panto world’s equivalent of the famous Los Angeles wrecking crew or Memphis Stax session aces.

The chorus was alive and kicking too, with big smiles and big voices on some energetic song and dance numbers.

So by the end of the night and the traditional community service – sorry – community song section, everyone in Grangemouth was well chuffed they had braved the cold night to have a gander at Mother Goose.

Young Portonians’ Mother Goose 2017 cast list:

Kirsty Mather (Mother Goose), Alison McCreadie (Jemima the Goose), Rachel Derry (Lucy); Shannon Henderson (Harry Handless), Leah Strathie (Hetty Hopeless), Ellie Johnston (Herald), Chloe Ashe (Sir Ernest Dogood), Brook Morrison (Wee Nick), Darren Willson (Wizard), Ava Maxwell (Fairy Queen)

Paige McGinlay, Shannon Ure, Keira Strathie, Eva Nicholson, Taylor Lewandowski, Olivia Stewart (Pirates/Villagers)

Amy Alexander, Charlie Franklin, Lucy Gray, Chloe Gray, Olivia Geary, Olivia Gourlay, Aaliyah Henderson, Ingrid Hunter, Caitlin Kemp, Ellis Keay, Sophie Keyes, Aimee Malloy, Grace Newton, Crace Nicholson, Beth Rafferty, Emily Reid and Rouse Ruane (Fairy Folk/Villagers)