By Conor O’Neill
Hard to think it’s just under two years since the Grand Opera House hosted May McFettridge and her own brand of Christmas magic. The place is bouncing with enthusiasm, kids are smiling behind masks with their luminous wands, there’s a Dale Farm – the sponsors of this GOH and Crossroads production – cow floating about getting selfied blind and a general feel of Christmas glee is in the air.
The plot is not in the slightest mentally taxing, we’ve kids of all ages to provide for here. Dame May McFetty and ringmaster hubby Paddy’s – played by long-term McFettridge acting partner Paddy Jenkins – circus is in financial quandary and there’s a new company in town. That of the annual necessary panto baddy, who this year is the entrancing and equally vile Countess Von Winklebottom. Anne Smith’s German accent is a joy to be hold, but a new one to me and I expect many panto lovers is hearing nearly 800 Northern Irish shout ‘Oh, no you von’t!’ back at our scheming Countess. As always with a McFettridge show, audience participation is upfront and ballsy – pardon the pun – as get out
Von Vinklebottom’s plan is to steal the three bears and have them as stars of her show. Paddy and McFetty’s plan is there isn’t one. Only Joey the clown – Adam C Booth whose probably best known for playing multiple comic roles in Keith Lemon’s Lemon La Vida Loca and The Keith Lemon Sketch Show. Booth’s energy is palpable, we were all cheering him on as he both tries to save the circus and win the heart of Goldilocks.
Kia-Paris Walcot’s professional debut hails well for her future career. She’s young, she’s beautiful she has the lungs of a whale and the voice of an angel. Be prepared to see her a lot in the future.
Last of the the main cast are our three bears: Daddy and Mummy Bear being played by Northern Irish acting maestros Marty Maguire and Jo Donnelly respectively. Kira McPherson holds her own among the collective talent. All class acts yet we probably should’ve seen more of them.
And, yes, I’m a few hundred words in and not a mention of the force of nature herself. McFettridge is a joy to watch, even if she has the face that sank a thousand ships. This is John Lineham’s 31st year disgracing the beautiful Opera House’s stage. From her first appearance right until the end she’s ripping the p*ss out of anyone unfortunate enough to have a spot light beamed upon them.
“Where ya from love?” ‘Poleglass’, you’re the first one here in all my years to admit that. How’d you afford the ticket, are you doing the double, treble?” And it’s not just the cheaper seats that get the brunt of Dame McFetty’s scathing tongue. One of the boxes finds a woman from Ravenhill. “Hope you locked yer car, there’s ones from Poleglass her ya know.” Writer Alan McHugh must just add in *on you go May* for a certain amount of minutes to let the ‘lady’ run riot.
These belly laughs will go way over the heads of the little uns, but McFettridge and company’s garish costumes and the brilliant direction and choreography by Jonny Bowles as well as a spectacular set by Ian Westbrook makes this a must see show.
Yet it’s not all about the tale itself. At times there are a few routines that will cast the mind back to a Britain’s Got Talent final.. Enter the talents of juggler Alfio Macaggi and Rola-Rola star David Robert. These scenes have to be seen to be believed.
Throw in the talented eight of the ensemble and the Grand Opera House Orchestra and all that’s left to say is, ‘What a great, not quite innocent night of panto!
Goldilocks And The Three Bears runs up to and including Sunday January 9th, 2022.
For booking details visit http://www.goh.co.uk or simply phone the box office on 02890 241818