See Tickets


Review: The Duke in the Cupboard at South Shields Customs House

Follow North East Theatre Guide on Twitter at on Facebook at

Benwell’s Most Wanted
Appears at The Customs House

The Duke in the Cupboard
South Shields Customs House
Until Saturday 10th October 2015

Playwright Susan Wear digs deep into the true story of one of the world’s greatest art theft mysteries after it is released from the National Archives in 2012. So did a retired bus driver from Benwell steal the latest star picture to hang in the National Gallery? And what was his motivation? 

1961 was a different time. You could retire with a pension but the perks of old age were few and far between. No free bus passes or cheap seats at the cinemas for the generation that fought in the wars. They even had to pay for their TV licences. Such a concept seems to have outraged Benwell resident Kempton Bunton so much he decides to make a stand. Despite only watching ITV he finds himself foul of the law by not buying a TV licence. Refusal to pay the resultant fine puts him in prison for a short time. Unrepentant, he still wants to make a protest when he stops his incarceration.

When the government finds the £140 000 to secure a painting of the Duke of Wellington for the nation Kempton is outraged. This puts him on collision course with not just the police but also the British establishment.

The play centres around Kempton and his long suffering wife May. Both parts benefit from the superb acting of Graham Overton and Zoe Lambert. Graham plays the cantankerous Kempton who clearly loves his wife but has a real bee in his bonnet about what is right. Likewise Zoe shows how strong the lady in his life had to be. Their stage chemistry was a real highlight of the show.

Supporting Graham and Zoe is Stephen Gregory as their son John and Tom Machell as the young reporter Bill Chester. BBC Look North’s Jeff Brown also pops onto the tv screen to report the national news which was a nice touch.

The change of pace as the show broke the fourth wall at the end of the first half is a masterstroke by director Katy Weir. The entry of Adam Donaldson and Scott Ellis lightened the mood as the interval approached.

The Duke In The Cupboard is yet another premiere at South Shields Customs House that captures the stories and the spirit of this region. Their work in this regard needs to be acknowledged and the theatre continues to play a significant role in Tyneside’s cultural scene.

The Duke is a warm, light hearted play that highlights the frustrations of the individual battling against the system. Susan Wear should be very proud of her first play and Executive Director Ray Spencer needs commending for spotting the talent.

See the show before Saturday - It’d be criminal to miss it!

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

Tickets are available from The Customs House Box Office, South Shields, tel 0191 4541234 or buy tickets on line at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.