Hackney Empire certainly has reason to celebrate; this beautiful building has been at the heart of London’s East End Theatre for 120 years. It has an extraordinary history as a music hall, television studio, theatre and even bingo hall. Hackney Empire have been producing pantomimes since 1988, and provides free tickets to local housing associations, community groups, local refugees and young carers. This year they celebrated this milestone with a performance of the equally long-standing pantomime Mother Goose.
The multi-talented Clive Rowe both directs the stars in the pantomime as Mother Goose and is a truly professional Pantomime Dame. Clive’s energy and enthusiasm are remarkable, and keeps him giggling away through the performance as if it is was his first. A step away from other Pantos who employ celebrities who re often new to pantomime in the major roles, Clive Rowe is a pantomime aficionado and it is very apparent his professional and consistent performance. He has had an epic career in amongst lots of tv and theatre performances he has starred in numerous pantomimes at Hackney, including the Mother Goose in 2009 when he was nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.
Clive is joined on stage by Tony Marshall, who plays the greedy Squire Purchase and has obvious on-stage chemistry with Clive Rowe as they perform the Pantomime classics such as the shopping trolley scene, which was seamless. Gemma Wardle, who has had an equally varied and exciting career on stage and tv, plays the good ‘Fairy Fame’ character and Rebecca plays her dark-equal the ‘Demon Queen’.
The Pantomime is set in Hackneywood, where supposedly dreams and made into films and films become part of your dreams. But as with many modern day dreams, a desperate obsession with social media popularity plagues the residents, who all seeking their next opportunity to make it in the world of celebrity and fame. Mother Goose runs a beauty parlour where she offers makeovers for those trying to find their fame and fortune, but is failing due to her generosity. Her sons Billy and Jack are trying to ‘keep it real’ and stop Mother Goose being sucked in by the greed all around her. However when Priscilla, Mother Goose’s much loved pet goose, starts laying golden eggs the temptation becomes too much for Mother Goose in this ‘Rags to Riches’ tale when Mother Goose has to choose between youth and beauty and the love of her pet.
There were some amazing vocal performances throughout the show, including “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” and “Levitating”. The audience participation was particularly entertaining, and the children were particularly taken with the sweets being thrown into the audience by the generous Mother Goose. We were all on our feet by the end of the show learning a Pantomime dance and joining in the sing-a-long. Dramatic moments were accompanied by flashes of smoke. The history of Hackney Empire was celebrated in a seamlessly integrated sketch that highlighted some of its greatest moments in the last 120 years.
I am so pleased we were able to witness these amazing performers in this much-loved home of pantomime and we will definitely be adding a visit to Hackney Empire to our future festive plans.
Lucy and her 3 daughters received complimentary to Mother Goose at the Hackney Empire, but all their opinions are their own.
19 November to 31 December 2022