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Review: Cinder Path at South Shields Customs House

World Premiere of Cookson Classic

The Cinder Path
South Shields Customs House
Wednesday 9th to Saturday 12th September 2015.

Fresh off the heels of Geordie The Musical (North East Theatre Guide review) comes a hit drama based a story by one of the regions most successful authors. Catherine Cookson’s tale pulls together the friction caused by battles between classes, sexes and countries and wraps it up in a tender love story.

Photo: George Knox
Paul Dunn has adapted the popular novel into a tight drama that went down a storm to a packed Customs House.  Central to the drama is young Charlie Macfell, played by the versatile Jamie Brown, who rarely leaves the stage.  Charlie may be at school but his father is both trying to marry him off and ensure he is capable of running their farm. He doesn’t approve of some of the harsh ways in which he deals with his staff.

Photo: George Knox
As landlord to some of his staff, his Father is able to wield considerable power. At the start of the show we witness the lad from the workhouse, Ginger Slater, being punished on the cinder path for his apparent laziness.  As is often the case, what goes round, comes around and we also see Ginger grow as the plot develops. James Hedley does a great job as the lad makes the most of his opportunities.

Photo: George Knox
Of course Cookson always develops strong female characters.  Sarah Boulter has great pathos as Nellie. She is able to show empathy whilst never being weak. At times Charlie’s inexperience makes the character comes across like Fast Shows Ralph from the Ralph and Ted sketches. The ladies in Charlie’s life are instrumental in the decisions that he makes and the path that he follows. However, as Charlie heads off to fight in The Great War, he grows in maturity though many events are beyond his control, such is the nature of war.

Photo: George Knox
The Cinder Path features a strong supporting cast who perform a large variety of demanding roles. Paul Dunn, for example, was the aggressive Dad in one scene and the solicitor shortly after.  Rosie Fox, Anna Nicholson and Georgia Nicholson play the other women, and some of the soldiers, in Charlie’s life with a wonderful presence. Paul is joined by Steven Stobbs who plays a number of allies to the sometimes hapless Charlie.

Photo: George Knox
The much missed Jackie Fielding was directing the show with Ion Production’s Gareth Hunter until her untimely death. The creative pair have delivered a passionate play that has both comedic lighter moments and some pretty intense points.   The movement of the cast, particularly during the war battle scenes was fluid.

Jamie Brown leads a strong cast in a production which is a must for the many fans of South Shield’s born Catherine Cookson. The show represents another cracking world premiere at South Shield’s Customs House.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for the North East Theatre Guide from Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Photo: George Knox
The Cinder Path runs from Wednesday 9thto Saturday 12th September 2015at the Customs House with matinees on the 10th and 12th. For tickets contact The Customs House on 0191 4541234 or visit

Promo photography by George Knox (weblink)

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