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REVIEW: Puddles’ Adventure at South Shields Customs House
South Shields Customs House
Wednesday 14th to Friday 16th February
By David John Hopper and Dale Jewitt.
unwritten rule that among those who put together pantomimes, and/or shows with
children as the intended audience. Never Patronise the Audience. The plots
might be outlandish, the sets may be saturated with colour and the characters
may be so much larger than life that there wasn’t a fourth wall to break in the
first place. But whatever you do, don’t patronise your audience- regardless of
how old - or how young they are.
one of this country’s oldest genres, and for many people is also their first
exposure to the theatre. It’s a perfect start too. Children have a sense of
logic that transcends all of the wackiness that is provided by such a show,
thus a good, and straightforward story is necessary to have them hooked. Their
responses are obvious too, and there’s no holding back with them. Since the children are with their Parents,
Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles and Guardians, there needs to be something to
entertain them too, because if they see that the Adults are having fun, then
they will have fun too.
So, the pressure
was on for the team behind Puddles Adventure, on this week at the Customs House
for the Half Term Break, to put on a good pantomime for the younger children,
and to live up to those traditions.
Simply put. Yes. Very much so.
The plot is actually quite intricate, but straightforward enough to ensure the
trip home is not overloaded with questions about the plot. Set in Cooksonville-
the setting for all of The Customs House Pantomimes, the story sees each
incarnation of the town broken up and mashed together so that the Evil
Fleshcreep can rule over all. It’s a helpfully convenient plot, to allow
characters from the more recent pantomimes return, and interact with the
lynchpin character of Arbuthnot, as well as having one more breath of life on
David John Hopper, who also directed and returned with ease to his staple role
of the lovable Arbuthnot, and Dale Jewitt who is taking over the role of
Puddles, the plot is more akin to an episode of Doctor Who (indeed a rock
version of the theme tune makes an appearance) or a Comic Book Multiverse Story
Arc, a Crisis on Multiple Cooksonvilles.
But it really does work to bring back old friends and give our heroes something
unique to really struggle with.
There are no
strangers to this form here: David John Hopper is always a welcome sight to the
Customs House stage, especially in his Arbuthnot character. Kids love him, and
rightfully so. It is in the opinion of this reviewer, having not long taken off
the panto dress and heels, that within a panto structure, the Dame is for the
Audience and her Knockabout Son is for the Kids. There’s nothing lost by not
having his stage mam of Dame Bella, or any Panto Dame, in this story, as that
particular dynamic is more suited to older audiences.
Riding Hood once again is the character of Chorizo, our Spanish Piggy who
is once again played by Kylie Ann Ford. This role was a show-stealer for me the
first time around, and is back on form this time around too, a dynamic
performance that has an audience hanging on to each word- and karate chop. Not
long back from a Touring Pantomime of Aladdin, it was great to see her back on
the Customs House Stage.
Another of her previous characters, Coco the Dormouse
in Wonderland is this time played by Eleanor Chaganis. This actress is
quickly becoming a Customs House stalwart, and demonstrating more versatility
with each appearance. From a Fairy, to a Princess to a Dormouse, each with
expertise- I look forward to seeing what is next. T
is Mr. Nasty Himself, Craig Reve- sorry, Fleshcreep, played by Steven Hamilton
once more. Hamilton relishes and shines in every role he plays. A good story is
only as good as it’s antagonist, and this one is as superb as ever, with every
aspect of his performance very precise. As always, the ever-talented and great
South Tyneside Dance Workshop are back performing the dance routines with
gusto- and they’re headed up by Katie Reed and Lori Smedley providing a link to
the Audience as go-between citizens of Cooksonville. The line of experience
continues with these two as well,
having both just finished a sell out run at the Pier Pavilion Pantomime of
Aladdin in January and bring a wonderful and endearing energy to this show.
Let’s not forget the Mayor of All Cooksonvilles Gareth Hunter who lends his
voice to move the story along- in a way that sounds very natural, and
It looks and
sounds good too, as the aesthetic continues on from previous years- having
become in many ways the Customs House look.
not one second where this team forgot to take their audience seriously. It was
a tight, smart and- above all, an appropriately fun show.
challenge was not only accepted, and risen too, but was met with a great deal
of success. The recipe for that success lies with the massive amount of
combined experience that this team have with Pantomime. Every song is a
sing-a-long, every scene is an excuse to directly interact. It’s a typical
pantomime, just with all of the slower bits removed to give the young audience
nothing to be distracted about. There’s the odd joke for the adults too, but
running at just over the hour, they’ll be beyond satisfied at what they get to
enjoy with the bairns. However, they’ll be singing those songs for weeks to
Arbuthnot….……………David John Hopper
Chorizo……………………Kylie Ann Ford
Coco the Dormouse..Eleanor Chaganis
& South Tyneside Dance Workshop.
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