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REVIEW: Cinderella at South Shields Customs House


South Shields Customs House

Until  Saturday 12th August 2023

If panto was an Olympic Event, then in the South Shields relay, the baton is being passed from Davey Hopper to Glen RIchard Townsend. This week the 'panto with a big heart' sees one of the best panto comics in the region back his bags and the dawn of a new era. The writers could not resits getting a few digs in about Hopper's new employer.

Cinderella played by Rebekah Summerhill

Cinderella is a well worn panto path to follow but, in this script, a few changes have been made to freshen it up and fit the cast. The end result is a great way to entertain the family. As I type this the rain is lashing down on the windows and the idea of taking the family to a just-under-3-hour show for the cost of a 3D movie at the local multiplex appeals. As always the jokes work on two levels and you'll hear both older and younger members of the audience laughing away. After all this creative pairing wrote our favourite panto of the year for three years in a row.

Den-Dini played by Glen Richard Townsend & Arbut-tons played by Davey Hopper

It is a full panto. You get the usual panto elements in here including a memorable messy scene that had an audience reaction as soon as the tarpaulin was rolled out. No spoilers here...

Den-Dini played by Glen Richard Townsend & Arbut-tons played by Davey Hopper

You have the songs - the Customs House pantos always feature a fair few songs. I have to say though my favourite was Jen Stevens arrangement of Britney Spear's Stronger. 

Arbut-tons played by Davey Hopper & Cinderella played by Rebekah Summerhill

You have the jokes - most recycled from the great panto jokebook but still they make the audience laugh.

Coni played by Dale Jewitt & Di played by David McCarthy

You have the romances. Will Cinders meet her Prince? Will called Arbut-tons find love too?

Christina Berriman Dawson as the Stepmother

But this is South Shields so you still have the style and feel of the Christmas pantos through, one expects, some recycling of resources from previous productions. Remember that the sets and costume designs have won national awards in the past.

Jess Brady as Fairy Godmother

You also get a cast that appreciate that they need to bring the audience along with them for the ride. It is not just the ever dependable Hopper and his side kick Townsend that interact with the audience but the tale needs the Ugly Sisters and their Mother to be distastefully likeable, the Fairy Godmother to be not just helpful but a strong character too. Likewise it helps in Prince Charming is not just some clueless/wet bolt-on-to-the-action as happens in too many Cinderella productions. The writing and the cast in this show combine to create a fine, enjoyable panto that keeps the audience in the frame.

This is the big difference between this show and a number of high budget shows. The audience are a part of the show here. This isn't just something that you sit back and watch whilst comedy happens in front of you - the audience very much has their part to play. This panto is not done to you- you are a part of it. The more that you give of yourself, the bigger the reward and the better the entertainment created. This is why the fans of the North East panto scene always include a trip to South Shields in their diaries. Indeed it is the show that the cast of other pantos often visit on their days off.

Andy Borthwick as Prince Charming

This is an ensemble piece with everyone pitching in both on and off the stage. There are moments of chaos (which are funny) and there is support in the three ringed circus that is panto. With a cast of eight, plus young dancers who always come across as professional for their age despite what else is happening on stage, there is no room for a weak link.

The Customs House always sets a very high bar for itself. Whilst this is not the greatest panto ever to grace their stage it is still a lot funnier than many I'll see this year.

Andy Borthwick as Prince Charming

Hopper will be missed - their was always chemistry between him and Ray Spencer. He deserves the success that he is heading to. Mickey Mouse's gain is our loss...BUT the Customs House was creating great panto before Davey's debut and they will again in the future. It is great to see Hopper getting a fitting goodbye from his fans. We wish him well on his travels. Bon voyage!

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: Jordan Embleton

Cast and Creatives:

Davey Hopper - Arbut—tons, 

Glen Richard Townsend - Den-Dini, 

Christina Berriman Dawson - Stepmother, 

Rebekah Summerhill - Cinderella, 

Jess Brady - Fairy Godmother, 

Dale Jewitt - Di,

David McCarthy - Coni 

Andy Borthwick - Prince Charming.

Director – Davey Hopper

Writers - Ray Spencer and Graeme Thompson, 

Production Manager – Jordan Embleton

Stage Manager – Jackson Beal

Lighting Design – John Rainsforth

Sound Design – Jordan Embleton

Sound Operator – Cameron Turnbull

Stage Crew – Stefan Hetherington

Followspot Operator – Joe Hall

Followspot Operator – Scarlett Henderson

Musical Director – Jen Stevens

Wardrobe & Costume – Eleanor Chaganis

Additional Costume/Magic – David Gibson

Additional Set – UK Productions


Cinderella runs at The Customs House from August 4 to 12. Tickets are £15 and available from or by calling the box office on 0191 454 1234

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