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NEWS: Customs House In Panto Awards


Panto cast and crew at The Customs House in South Shields are celebrating after being shortlisted for three national awards.

Matt Fox (kneeling, left) and Paul Shriek (kneeling, right) 
with the cast of Beauty and the Beast.
The nominations for The Great British Panto Awards were announced by comedian Al Murray live on Facebook yesterday (Sunday, February 17).  Beauty and the Beast, which was this year’s offering, received nominations in the Best Comic, Best Pantomime Animal and Best Staging and Set categories.

Ray Spencer, Executive Director of The Customs House, who co-writes, directs and stars as Dame Bella in the annual production, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to have not one, not two but three nominations this year. I’m so proud of them all.”

David John Hopper as Arbuthnot
Talented costume and set designers Matt Fox and Paul Shriek, of Newcastle-based Fox and Shriek, were nominated for Best Staging and Set. It is their second nomination in The Great British Panto Awards, with Paul taking home the award for Best Costume Design at last year’s ceremony.

David John Hopper, who is originally from Consett but now lives in South Shields, received a nod for Best Comic for his portrayal as Dame Bella’s affable son Arbuthnot.  And Sunderland actor Charlie Raine, who is hearing impaired, has been shortlisted in the Best Pantomime Animal category for her portrayal of signing sheep Cutlet.

(l-r) Charlie Raine as Cutlet, Ray Spencer as Dame Bella 
and David John Hopper as Arbuthnot in Beauty and the Beast
The nominations come hot on the heels of the sold-out celebration of panto at The Customs house, One Night in Cooksonville, on Friday, February 15.  The variety show was put together as part of the venue’s 25th anniversary programme this year and looked back on its illustrious history with pantomime, bringing together faces from past and present.  Ray added: “A huge congratulations to our panto cast and everybody involved in Beauty and the Beast. What a week for the Little Panto with the Big Heart.”

The Great British Panto Awards, now in their third year, will take place at New Wimbledon Theatre in London on Sunday, April 28, hosted by Christopher Biggins.

David and Charlie will be back in character at The Customs House this week in panto spin-off Arbuthnot and Pal’s Detective Agency - a half-term crime caper for the under-10s and their families. It runs from Tuesday, February 19, to Friday, February 22.
Tickets are £8 and are available from the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or online at

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