This year the team at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern are taking on Mother Goose in their own unique style as Goosed. Dave Cross spoke to director Tim McArthur, writers Paul Joseph and Tim Benzie, producer Catia Ciarico, and Topsie Redfern who plays the evil Kelly Anne Con-Witch, about this year eggs-travaganza.
Hi team! So, Goosed… the RVT take on Mother Goose…
Tim and Paul: Yes indeed! You expect a queer sensibility, lots of great tunes, incisive social commentary and dick jokes.
Tim Mc: This is my fifth year of directing the RVT panto, and we decided to do the most challenging panto: Mother Goose. It isn’t performed very much and therefore it may have an interesting gay spin on the plot/ characters and audience appeal.
Topsie: I’ve never seen Mother Goose. If it is as saucy as our version I think I’ve been missing out.
Catia: All traditional pantos get the RVT treatment, turning them from sweet, innocent things into foul mouthed ho bags.
What’s the basic story and how does it differ from the original?
Paul: In the original Mother Goose is being evicted from her land because she can’t pay the rent. A fairy sends her a goose that lays golden eggs to help her, but she is tempted to give the goose away in return for youth and beauty. In our version Mother runs a pub in Vauxhall, called the Goose Tavern. It’s a renowned and historic queer performance venue, but business is bad. Fairy Lamé visits her and gives her a golden glitterball that ensures the dancefloor is full whenever it is lit. However, Kelly Anne Con-Witch tries to take it away from her to put in the new American Embassy that she is opening for President Ronald Hump.
Tim Mc: Tim and Paul have done an amazing job making sure that the original tale of Mother Goose has translated into a panto that really reflects gay life.
Tim and Paul, can you tell us about the writing process?
Paul: I wrote the plot synopsis, as a pitch to Catia and Tim McArthur, and once we agreed this Tim and I starting working on the script. One of us writes a scene then the other writes the next, we spend a lot of time reviewing, editing and re-writing. There are certain panto elements we knew were essential and we had a lot of fun adding in running gags, visual set pieces and songs.
Tim Benzie: It’s amazing how structured a traditional panto is, compared to how chaotic and bonkers it can seem when you watch it, and Tim McArthur has a heap of experience, so it’s been a delight and a camp education. Once we had the format down it was matter of packing in as many gags as we could into a tight format. Which sounds filthy – I think we’ve been working on this too long.
Can you talk us through the cast and characters they play?
Catia: We have an amazing cast. The brilliant Topsie Redfern has returned, playing the baddie Kelly Anne Con-Witch.
Tim Mc: We have the hilarious Faye Reeves who is a real tour de force performer and it’s a tradition now that Faye plays loads of characters with lots of different accents. Alan G Hunter returns for his second year as the love interest Finn. Our new cast members this year are handsome Richard Watkins as our loveable Jack and Rob McNeilly as Mother – a big Scottish bear with an amazing voice who is playing the Dame.
Topsie, can you tell us about your character?
Kelly Anne Con-Witch is based on Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s Campaign Manager, advisor and spokesperson. I saw someone describe her as “an extremely good evil witch who can really cast a spell over the ignorant”, so in real life she really is a pantomime baddie. She presents as charming, wholesome and nice, thinly masking a very intelligent manipulative quality and ability to depart quite radically from the truth – she is a baddie we love to hate. Her American-ness allows for fun; even though she is in a pantomime, the character doesn’t understand the standard panto conventions, which is a brilliant idea to play with. I’ve actually grown quite fond of her – eek!
What kind of songs can we expect in Goosed?
Paul: There’s a lot of good pop tunes including Scared of the Dark by Steps, which actually gave me the idea to have a golden glitterball. There’s also a few Christmassy numbers for added festive fun!
Tim: There’s not many creative opportunities to write new and often filthy lyrics to hits as diverse as Downtown and Despacito, but pantos are perfect for it. You’ve never heard an interpretation of Christina’s Beautiful like this one.
How much influence did current affairs have on the show?
Paul: We were very much inspired by what is happening at the moment, on a local and global level. Mother’s situation of struggling to run a queer venue, having a villain based on Kellyanne Conway, plus of course there are Brexit gags, and we’re keeping our eyes on the news for any last minute topical gags we can put in.
Tim: Frankly the world is so ridiculous and insane at the moment we were spoiled for choice. The library is very much open in Goosed.
Catia, can you tell us about the one-off show in Hastings?
We are bringing Goosed to Hastings on 2 December. Our pantos really lend themselves to being hosted in other venues. Our foray to Hastings was very successful in 2015 and it looks like it will be again this year. The good people of Hastings seem to like our subversiveness and filthy jokes.