Ray Spencer – Dame Bella Ballcock
David Hopper – Arbuthnot
Annie Guy – Snow White
Dale Jewitt – Prince of the North
Steven Lee Hamilton – The Evil Queen
Bethan Amber – Minerva the Mirror
Charlie Raine – Sniffy
Luke Maddison – Whiffy
Date: Friday 29th November 2019
Venue: The Customs House, South Shields
The Customs House in South Shields is currently celebrating its 25th Anniversary and Snow White was the first panto that was performed in 1994. I think that is the perfect way to help with the celebrations heading back to Cooksonville for another unique take on the fairytale.
The Evil Queen had banished her sister in the mirror and had been forced to look after Snow White. But on hearing that her niece is now the fairest in the land she cannot handle her jealously and wants Snow White dead. Enter Dame Bella and her son Arbuthnot to try and help everything along. Will the Prince of the North be able to find his true love and save his Kingdom? Don’t forget the two skunks as well!
The beauty of pantomime in general is being able to update them and have current trends running throughout. This one does that in such a fantastic manner especially when it comes to the songs and covering it for all different ages so no one will feel left out. I was completely hooked and taken in with “I’ll Be There For You” the Friends theme being sung right at the start, I wanted to clap along as well. As well as being the ultimate Friends fan I was also right into Game of Thrones so the Prince of the North and the references to the series were perfect for me. The shame part was in particular fantastic! Getting in a joke about Prince Andrew as well with the Prince of the North being the Prince that doesn’t sweat! You have to admit that is a very clever addition which is very current!
As well as being current the way Snow White does not want to confirm to stereotypes in a welcome addition as well as the untraditional ending. But come on it is 2019 and panto certainly has to change and fit into the current climate and that is what this Snow White really does. I was curious to how the dwarves were going to be incorporated into the show and that was done with voice overs and children doing actions which was certainly a great idea.
The format of the panto is always very similar and I think that helps audiences in knowing exactly what to expect and when. We are going to get a crazy scene where poor Arbuthnot is getting covered in something with Dame Bella trying to keep out of the way. Dressed in wellies and trying not to fall over becomes hilarious as you reach a point where you don’t know which part is scripted and which is just happening. Frozen II has just been released and we get to see Dame Bella become Elsa and even Olaf too for the typical he’s behind you scene which kids just love because they can shout and scream as loud as they want. Then finishing with a special actions dance and a competition between each side of the theatre, this year was to the tune of the Blaydon Races with lyrics changed, very north east and I adore that!
The special thing about this pantomime is that it has so much local humour and references and I totally adore that. I always have and always will, I have been going to The Customs House for panto since I can remember and now appreciate it in a totally different way. They manage to combine so many different styles of comedy within a story you already know. The more slapstick comedy for the children to laugh at and then the risqué jokes for the adults. Not forgetting the occasional digs at Jarra and Cleadon Village, which I find hilarious. I really do recommend this panto as it might be small, but it really does have the biggest heart going!
I grew up watching Ray Spencer as Tommy the Trumpeter at the amphitheatre in the summer holidays and in more recent years have enjoyed seeing his transition from being Tommy in the panto to now the Dame. He is a joy to watch and has a special gift of engaging with and being in control of the audience, perfect comedic timing and very quick witted. David Hopper gets better each and every time I see him taking onto that role alongside Spencer in a fantastic fashion. The reaction he gets from the children in the audience is brilliant and I throughly enjoy watching the pair with the daft moments and very Geordie sayings. Steven Lee Hamilton was outstanding as the Evil Queen and really on another level, what a fantastic villain! Must be such a fun role to take on and he excels in it. Charlie Raine as Sniffy given the task of using sign language throughout the show was a lovely touch.
Massive well done to the whole cast and crew that work so hard to put on an amazing time at the theatre and I know everyone who attends is going to laugh, smile and have an amazing time.
The little panto with the big heart is on until Sunday 5th January 2020, book tickets here!