Review: Cinderella at Customs House
Cinderella at Customs House, South Shields
4th August 2023
If you want a fantastic feel good and fabulous treat for your family then look no further than everyone’s favourite pantomime Cinderella at The Customs House in South Shields. Davey Hopper who stars as Ar-Buttons has also directed this production and he has conjured up something truly magical in his final ‘little pantomime with a big heart’ before he ventures off to The House of Mouse and pastures new.
I absolutely love pantomime done well, with local gags, in-jokes and bloopers and tonight featured all of them in a hilarious romp charting the well-travelled and most famous rags to riches story. We are first introduced to the wicked stepmother (Christina Berriman Dawson) who snarls her way through the prologue before being chastised for being a ‘nasty pasty’ by the Fairy Godmother (Jess Brady)who is delightfully, dare I say, common in her role.
The traditional opening number is provided by the entire cast and the first appearance of many by the dancers of South Tyneside Dance Workshop under the direction of Jacqui West. The music is outstanding throughout the performance and under the directorship of Jen Stevens offered some super upbeat numbers for the audience to clap along and stamp their feet to but also some very interesting mashups which showed her musical direction skill and also a love and understanding for the genre. This coupled with some very deft touches from the director made for a very interesting and captivating pantomime with some extra special surprises thrown in for good measure.
Glen Richard Townsend is no stranger to the stage at Customs House or to working with Arbuthnot, and he really warmed the audience up in this role as Den-dini. His vocals and comedy timing were as always superb and his warmth to all the characters with whom he interacts glows from the stage.
Our principal girl, Cinderella was definitely not the simpering princess waiting for her Prince to save her. The Cinders delivered by Rebekah Summerhill not only delivers some withering commentary on her own predicament during the production, is refreshingly part of her own rescue from her emancipation towards the inevitable end of the show.
The majority of the comedy is provided by Davey Hopper in his swansong as Arbuthnot aka Ar-Buttons in this production and much fun is found in the script ribbing him about his impending departure to new adventures. We also have the anti-heroes The Ugly Sisters Coni (Dale Jewitt) and Di (David McCarthy) who worked very well together and swapped effortlessly between snarling bullies to infantile spoilt brats. It is always fun when lines go awry in pantomime but there is a fine line between playing the giddy goat and risking the impression that one is a little under-rehearsed.
The backdrops and the set frame the production very well indeed but a lot of the magic is in the quite exquisite costume plot from David Gibson. There is clearly months and months of work and careful thought gone into these amazing costumes and they really bring an additional magic to Cinderella’s world. The pantomime of Cinderella relies on a magical transformation scene to close Act One and this one does not disappoint and brought gasps of joy from the packed audience this evening.
If you are looking for something special and magical to do with your friends, your family or anyone else for that matter you need look no further than Cinderella at Customs House in South Shields for a superb production with a great deal of heart.
Cinderella runs until Saturday 12th August at Customs House, South Shields.
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