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Preview: Lambton Worm at South Shields Customs House


The Lambton Worm

South Shields Customs House

Tuesday 28th November 2017 - Saturday 6th January 2018

Whisht lads - there’s only three months to go until Christmas!
The stars of this year’s panto at The Customs House - The Lambton Worm - have officially launched the theatre’s countdown to Christmas. There’s something for all the family to enjoy, not least the hilarious re-telling of one of the region’s most famous pieces of folklore. The Lambton Worm, sponsored by Hays Travel, runs from Tuesday 28th November 2017until Saturday 6th January 2018.

Penned by Ray Spencer, executive director of The Customs House, and Graeme Thompson, a former broadcaster and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, it has been written in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the folk song The Lambton Worm.

The song, written in 1867, tells the legend of the brave Sir John Lambton, who returns home from war to slay a ferocious beast who has been terrorising the villages around the Lambton estate, gobbling up livestock and small children.
The beast, said to have wrapped itself around Penshaw Hill when full, is slain after Sir John seeks the guidance of a local witch, but he fails to follow her instructions to the letter, leaving the family cursed for nine generations. There will be a twist in the tale –and a much happier ending - in The Customs House version of the story, however, as well as a love triangle and a battle between good and evil.

Mr Spencer, who also directs the show and stars as Dame Bella Ballcock, said: “I think it is really important that some of our traditional folk tales are passed on to new generations. At a time when so much is changing, being able to tell this story and have children interested in places like Penshaw Monument and Penshaw Hill, and getting them to go out and about and see these places, is something we should celebrate. Of course, we should recognise that the original song was written for pantomime, so we will celebrate that 150th anniversary.”

Dame Bella, the castle cook, is joined in the kitchen by her hapless son Arbuthnot, played by David John Hopper, who returns to the panto for a second year, having made his debut in last year’s Jack and the Beanstalk.
Steven Lee Hamilton also returns as The Brave and Bold Sir John, taking on the role of principal boy once again after three years of playing the villain in Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland and Jack and the Beanstalk.
Eleanor Chaganis takes on the principal girl role as the princess, while Natasha Haws is moving away from principal girl for the first time to play Susie Soothsayer from Southwick. Georgia Nicholson plays her sister, Poison Pen from Penshaw.

Gareth Hunter also returns to the pantomime as The Sultan, while comedian and one half of Britain’s Got Talent’s The Mimic Men, Cal Halbert, and Lewis Jobson make their debuts as Lord Larry Lambton and Puddles the Dog respectively.   

Designers Paul Shriek and Max Fox have once again worked their magic on the costumes and sets and South Tyneside Dance Workshop are back to provide the dancers.

But it’s not just ‘The Little Panto with the Big Heart’ that draws in the crowds over the festive period at The Customs House.Santa’s Naughty Elf, starring Wayne Miller as the mischievous Elfluent, is also back in A Christmas Carol, a new 60-minute show aimed at the under-sevens, from Saturday, December 2, until Christmas Eve. Inspired by the Charles Dickens classic, families will be transported back in time to find out how Elfluent earned his title – and whether he can mend his ways and become the elf that Santa knows he can be.

Other events include a Christmas Murder Mystery on Monday, December 11, which includes a three-course meal and festive whodunit, and A Christmas Carol: A Folk Opera, on Wednesday, December 13, both in Daltons Suite from 7.30pm.
Christmas Swing with Danny Reed takes place on Thursday, December 14, at 7pm, with the swing singer entertaining diners during a three-course meal, all for £18.95.
Angela’s Festiva Frolics returns on Monday, December 18, at 2pm, for an afternoon of Christmas fun and tasty turkey broth, mince pie and a cuppa, all for £9.95.
There will be special screenings of Miracle on 34th Street and Elf in the cinema, from December 4 to 7 and Deecmber 20 to 24 respectively.
And for New Year’s Eve entertainment, look no further than Jason Cook’s New Year’s Eve Comedy Club on Sunday, December 31, at 7.30pm

Tickets for The Lambton Worm are priced from £9.99 and the Christmas Eve performances are already sold out. Tickets for Santa’s Naughty Elf: A Christmas Carol start at £10.
Tickets for the Christmas Murder Mystery are priced from £21.95 and A Christmas Carol: A Folk Opera, a re-telling of the story set to traditional English folk tunes, is priced from £12.50.
Jason Cook’s New Year’s Eve Comedy Club is a two-hour show recommended for those aged 16 and over. Tickets are from £25.

For more information, contact the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or visit

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