29th November 2012
This seasons panto by the Customs House in South Shields is the age(less) old story of Dick Whittington the out of luck chap who travels to London to make a better life for himself. Thinking that the streets are paved with gold, he goes in search of riches and a life of fulfilment.
Dick of course comes up against barriers in his quest; that are side-splitting funny, visually and musically engaging.
You know when the dark night envelope the country and the severe storm warnings are broadcast from pillar to post, that it must be Pantomime time.
South Shields Customs House have pulled out all of the stops to entertain and to keep the doom firmly locked out, with Mr Jack Frost unable to enter as he didn't buy a ticket.
On entering the theatre only the front end of the stage could be visible, with the opening dialogue coming from King Rat (Peter Darrant) telling the synopsis of Dick, and how he planned to come in between any joy that might befit him.
Along our journey we see many colourful characters springing into life, with the crowd getting behind them with a hearty smile and a clap, or a vengeful boo, all within the best possible panto take of course.
Dick of course, our main character bounded on stage full of life in search of his dreams and passions, (he was played very well by Steven Lee Hamilton) with his journey to the big smoke being a big step from the streets of South Shields, you knew that, for the kids who didn't know the story, that in store he was gonna hold the audience.
Dame Dotty (played by the brilliantly funny Bob Stott, billed as this being his last panto) was magnificent on stage coming up with some wonderful humour, some that I am pleased the kids in the audience didn't get, cos us adults certainly did, nudge nudge, wink wink!!
Tommy ( Ray Spencer, CEO of the Customs House) was another great character, playing the bumbling father of Dick, getting himself into all sorts of predicaments and strife. It was certainly what the crowd paid their money for, they weren't by any means short changed.
This year a very international feel to the panto was created, by the introduction of two actors from Sweden. This of course meant that the writers had to include a few puns about ABBA and of course the Swedish chef from Sesame Street.
Captain Karl Gustav Von Wrangler, try saying that after a few beers correctly and I will give you a £1, played by Ola Karlberg and Dick's feline companion Mia Cat (yes of course the advert was spliced in perfectly), played by Mia Wallin. Both performed brilliantly and added a nice continental approach to proceedings, so hats off again the writers for using some great imagination.
Captain Karls henchmen...well if you can call them that, Seaman Anchor (Jonathan Lee Wharton) and Seaman Weigh ( Luke Maddison (who I have reviewed before, as part of Starset Theatre) ) were I am sure a firm favourite with the kids in the crowd, their tomfoolery and look of mischievousness really reminded me of Dick (ooohh missus another Dick) and Dom from the BBC. A good pairing these two were, very funny and entertaining!
No panto would be complete without the Fairy Godmother, this time however it was a puppet, and a very Geordie one at that. Charlie Hardwick, known to millions as Val Pollard in ITV's Emmerdale, gave her voice to the Fairy, very forthright she was too, putting King Rat in his place a few times, and helping out where help was needed.
One of the spectacular highlights of the show for me was an audio/visual treat of the underwater scene. A superb projector screen curtain was introduced into the show, which showed an animated Tommy and Dotty escaping from a ships trunk, with great fishy scenes and to the great delight of everybody in the theatre, the showing of Tommy's escaped gas, brilliant, brilliant!!
Of course we all knew what was going to happen in the the end, but the Customs House panto has made it a total pleasure in getting there.
Take your kids, your kids kids, adopt a kid, so you can take them...or if like me, as an adult you love to hear the word Dick a hundred times on stage, and if your bladder can hold up to it, take a works party..but just go and see it..it will make you ache with laughter.
Dick Whittington plays until 6th January 2013