AD – We were given Press tickets for this show.
Our second Panto of the Season. They all seem to start on different dates. Snow White at the Customs House, South Shields began on 27th November 2019 and will run until 5th January 2020. Every Pantomime in the North East has its own unique strength and year on year this one is still hitting strong with its niche.
Snow White – The Customs House
We usually visit the Customs House between Christmas and New Year, but this year we were offered press tickets on their press night. As Catherine was working away in London, it was just Me and the Hoopsters.
As the Customs House is celebrating 25 years since it opened as a theatre, they have chosen to bring back Snow White (And the 7 Dwarves), which was the pantomime that the performed in that opening year in 1994.
We were sat on the second row of the Circle (upper level). Despite being upstairs the view of the stage was unmarred. The modern theatre seating and barrier design mean that we’ve never had a “Bad” seat at the theatre. We’ve previously been on the back row of this level too.
The Show opens with the Evil Queen (Steven Lee Hamilton), who through the powers of her Magic Mirror, discovers that she is no longer the “Fairest of them all” in Cooksonville. Her competition being Snow White (Annie Guy), who also has a couple of admirers, One being the Prince of the North (Dale Jewitt). Fleeing the castle for her own safety she is taken in by a group of Minor Miners in the Cottage. With the help of Arbuthnot (Davey Hopper), and Dame Bella Ballcock (Ray Spencer), the story unfolds.
The Customs House Panto – Their Unique Style
The Customs House pantomime has several unique elements to it, but the first one that leaps out at you is the design. The set and the costumes are designed by Matt Fox and Paul Shriek. The fluid sketchy, vibrant designs leap out from the stage, be it scenery or couture. We always spot a little real-world nod in the scenery. This year one is in one of the first scenes. In Cooksonville, the old Travel Agents is being reopened as a Hays Travel (nice touch).
Gunge and slop. Dame Bella Ballcock and Arbuthnot usually have a messy routine. Which is included in this year too. Leaky custard and sludge lead to a hilarious slip-sliding performance. Ray Spencer and Davey Hopper pass out innuendo and suggested adult humour in a child-friendly manner, that keeps the parents happy.
Again as always (one of their strong points) the music and humour are very current. We spotted a song from Descendants, Enchanted and Aladdin (new live-action version) early on and peppered throughout were songs that have had a recent through Tik Tok. It’s when your kids are telling you the tracks before you know them that you know they’ve connected with the audience.
The traditional ending or Snow White results in her being awakened by a “True Loves Kiss”, although this does happen, there is a cute twist on the plot that totally makes sense and works.
Snow White Customs House Review
When it comes to a local pantomime the “Little Panto with a Big Heart” delivers everything you want with its unique presentation. Plenty of local jokes, picking out and naming South Tyneside’s favourite spots. Our kids loved it and got so excited with a version of Spooky Scary Skeletons (via Tik Tok). For the parents, it was definitely the humour that drove it forward. A very cool special effect for a flying bat was brilliant, and something I’ve not seen elsewhere (and I’m not sure why).
Annie Guy’s version of “Happy Working Song” was absolutely perfect. and one of my highlight from the show.
Ultimately the reason we always come back every year is the chemistry between Ray Spencer and Davey Hopper. Ray has the timing and rapport with the returning audience, while Davey bounces off him and happily takes a beating with the physical slapstick humour.
The intimate venue and approach to the production make it feel like your part of the success of the Theatre. With 25 years behind it, I can only see it continuing on for many more years to come.
Dates: Wed 27th Nov 2019 – Sun 5th Jan 2020
Prices: From £9.99
Address: The Customs House, Mill Dam, South Shields, NE33 1ES
Telephone: 0191 454 1234