WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The Customs House panto might not be the biggest production in the North East but it certainly has the largest place in our family’s heart! Living in South Shields, we are fiercely proud of our little theatre and stunned every year by the magic the talented team weaves at Christmas with its knockout pantomime that would even put bigger budgets to shame. There’s something really special too about seeing a show in a smaller theatre, being so close to all those sequins, the glitter and the goo.
This year’s show is an instant classic. Based loosely on the traditional tale, Dame Trott and her twin sons live on a dairy farm but are down on their luck, with just one cow and her ice cream business (cue local sponsor Doddington!) is melting away. Fortunately, the cow is traded for some seemingly worthless beans that actually lead to a world of adventure and fortune.
The real comedy and storytelling comes from all of the mayhem and mischief the characters cause along the way. My favourite scene involved an accident with a wishing well which resulted in a silly version of a Disney tune and Nina’s was, without a doubt, the surprising outfit change into Pokemon characters!
WHO’S IN IT?
Playing Dame Trott is the legendary Ray Spencer, fondly known to generations of kids in the town as Tommy the Trumpeter and by adults as the King of the Customs House.
Ray is co-writer of the script too (with long-term writing partner Graeme Thompson) and acts almost as director on stage, keeping the show moving at just the right pace and finding any opportunity to improvise and add in even more comedy genius as the action unfolds. Because so many in the audience know him and have been entertained so well by him before, they’re laughing before he steps on stage and their expectation and anticipation infects the whole theatre with a crackling atmosphere.
Other standout parts were played by Steven Lee Hamilton as the aptly named baddie Fleshcreep and rising star David John Hopper as the Dame’s daft son Arbuthnot Trott.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT?
It’s a laugh-a-minute rollercoaster of comedy on many levels, with slapstick silliness, double entendres and sophisticated humour expertly fused together by its talented scriptwriters.
I’m always in awe of the way the show manages every year to tap into the zeitgeist, with jokes and song selections that are of-the-moment for the kids and adults alike – though sometimes they’re so on-trend some of the grownups are left behind! Once such moment in this show – probably the favourite for most of the kids there – was the performance of the crackers YouTube hit Pen Pineapple Apple Pen. The kids went wild while many of the adults were left scratching their heads!
Likewise, Nina leaned over to me to ask for an explanation to some of the more ‘adult’ comedy moments. But that’s the magic of a successful Customs House panto. It’s pure entertainment that bridges the generations, brought to life in a cloud of sparkles with breath-taking sets and costumes.
WHO SHOULD SEE IT?
It’s a show for everyone and anyone who loves to feel festive. In true panto tradition, Jack and the Beanstalk has all the right ingredients to entertain you – whether you’re a toddler, a tween, in your twenties or your 70s!
WHEN IS IT ON?
Now, until January 7.