It’s December and ‘Tis the season for frantic shopping trips, too much food and of course the British tradition the pantomine! ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House was to be the first of many this season. After a fun and slightly stressful Christmas tree putting up morning where yet again we discovered some lights weren’t working! (I’m sure this happens every year and we never learn!) we headed over to the theatre on Westgate Road for the 12.30pm matinee showing on a Sunday afternoon.
The Tyne Theatre
Its been a few years since we’ve been to the Tyne Theatre, and I think the last show we saw here was the bizarre ‘Aliens love Underpants’ when a 2 year old Abigail obsessed with the book. Kids love any mentions of pants!!
Pre-kids we remember taking our niece Louise to see Natasha Bedingfield when she was around Imogen’s age (she’s now 23!) As we reminisced Alan said ‘I wonder whatever happened to her?’ She really did disappear along with her brother! Off to wikipedia….
Anyway I digress with tales of naughties pop stars and underpant obsessed aliens. Today we were here to see ‘Beauty and the Beast‘ presented by the Newcastle Panto Company a good old fashioned Geordie panto starring Maxie Peters (without his retired sidekick Mitch) as Lottie Stottie the Dame and Charlie Richmond (of the Pot Noodle WAG advert fame – youtube it!!) as his simpleton son Norman. Belle was played by the glam Emily Swan, while the evil Cruella La Poo Poo the villian who gained all the ‘boos’.
This local company have been writing, directing and casting the panto at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House annually since 1995, but sadly its their last year with the theatre as the board has selected a national company to run the show in 2017. We were talking to another Dad in our row who was here to watch his daughter and said his daughters dance school were all sad it was to the last one they would involved in. Maxie Peters (Lottie Stottie) gave a heartfelt speech at the end at the sadness of this decision but he said he’ll ‘write a panto for someone else’..so watch this space!
So onto the positives. Norman Stottie was brilliant and had a great way with the kiddies he brought up on stage. “Oh you want an egg-box?” he teased to one little lad who had asked Santa for a games console and he had fun with a little girl who wanted an iPad. “Why would you want a pad to put on your eye??” The old ones are the worst! Both Prince Sid (James Hedley) and Belle (Emily Swan) have fantastic voices especially on the Demi Lovato / Olly Murs duet ‘Up’ which Imogen had a little self-conscious sing to.
A panto is nothing without its liberal sprinkling of bonkers and the highlight was the hilarious take of ’12 days of Christmas’. Lottie Stottie joked she hadn’t done this one and gave a knowing wink to the audience as it seems to be a staple in most pantos but is very funny especially when they start tripping up over the crazy props such as a ‘bra that will only hold 3’.
Can’t do the positives without the negatives which don’t solely lie with the panto itself but the venue.
Unfortunately we found the Tyne Opera House to be extremely tired, with very squashed seating and is in need of reburbishment. The toilets in the grand circle were a little grubby and the carpet threadbare in parts.
I can appreciate that the arts have taken a hammering in current years with massive cuts to funding and here it really shows. The building is historic and I can’t help wondering if the change in panto company is party of a bigger strategy to drive more business and achieve the refurburbishment that it deserves to bring it back to its former glory. The Tyne Opera panto is a little more expensive (£22 adult and £20 for this matinee) when compared with say the Northern Stage and Customs House, which both seem to me seem more spacious spaces to introduce the kids to theatre.
All in all we really did enjoy this pantomime and left feeling more festive than when we went in!
We were kindly given complimentary tickets for this performance in exchange for an honest review.