Clive Rowe returns to the Hackney Empire once again this Christmas to take on dame duties in the venue’s pantomime, Mother Goose, which opens on 4 December after previews from 29 November.
The pairing of actor Rowe and writer/director Susie McKenna is one that goes back many years and has resulted in a delectable selection of memorable dames on the Hackney Empire stage including Dame Trot, Widow Twankey and Sarah the Cook, a role Rowe occupied with typical flamboyance in last year’s production of Dick Whittington And His Cat.
In this year’s festive show, Rowe plays the titular Mother Goose, a kindly storyteller who lives in Hackneytopia with her son Billy and all the other fairytale folk. One fateful day two magical sisters, Charity (the good one) and Vanity (the evil one), decide to find out who is the most powerful witch. Charity sends poor Mother Goose a magical golden-egg-laying goose called Princess Priscilla. Suddenly Mother Goose is richer than she ever thought possible, her home is safe and her family happy. But is this enough? Could Vanity tempt her to turn against everyone she loves to gain her heart’s desire? Will she give away the prized goose she has grown to love… for beauty?
In addition to his panto appearances, Rowe is an experienced musical theatre star whose London stage credits include Into The Woods at the Royal Opera House, Simply Heavenly at Trafalgar Studios, this year’s Twelfth Night at the Open Air theatre, plus numerous shows at the National Theatre including Caroline, Or Change and Guys And Dolls, for which he won the 1997 Best Supporting Performance in a Musical Laurence Olivier Award.
In directing Mother Goose, McKenna, who also wrote the show with her long-term collaborator, composer Stephen Edis, can raise her Hackney pantomime directorial total to 11, many of which have starred Rowe. In addition to her festive fare, McKenna has directed Steven Berkoff’s Sit And Shiver and Jewish comedy Beau Jest, which played at Hackney Empire in May this year.
McKenna, who is also an actress with credits including Cats and Chicago, will join Rowe on stage in Mother Goose as part of a cast that includes Sharon D Clarke. Though she is most recently known for playing Lola in Holby City, Clarke has many musical theatre credits to her name, including appearing alongside Rowe in Guys And Dolls at the National, originating the role of Killer Queen in We Will Rock You, plus spells in The Lion King, Fame and Chicago.
The rest of the cast is Tameka Empson, Kat B, Anthony Whittle, Matt Dempsey, Carl Parris, Abigail Rosse and Alex Ross.