Writers: Ray Spencer & Graeme Thompson
Director: Ray Spencer
You know I’s Christmas when panto arrives, and nowhere is that truer than at The Customs House. Spencer and Thompson can always be relied upon to deliver the true spirit of Christmas and this year is no exception.
As many traditional fairy stores, Rapunzel goes way back, including Schulz in 1790 which Brothers Grimm adapted in 1812. In South Shields, Gothel (Eleanor Chaganis) abducts Rapunzel (Beth Clarke), King Richard’s (Wayne Miller) daughter. Gothel poses as her mother in order to have the magic power of Rapunzel’s golden hair, imprisoning her in Cleadon Tower at Cooksonville. Rapunzel only has her talking pig (voice of Alfie Joey) for company. Much (Steven Hamilton) is eager to rescue her, while Rumpelstiltskin (William Wyn Davies) an old friend hopes to acquire her ‘magic’ golden locks. Will good conquer evil? Will Dame Bella(Ray Spencer)and her dotty son Arbuthnot(Davey Hopper)setting up their new hair saloon, help son Much come to the rescue? Can Fairy Fearnedew (Chloe Jane Millar) help?
Spencer, as relaxed with quick comedy reflexes as ever, and Hopper have developed a great working relationship on stage, both very in tune with each other, being quick to grasp every comedic opportunity. The very talented Hamilton grows in strength every year with a great voice and stage presence. It is also great to see Miller back in his familiar habitat, adding his own sparkle to his scenes with the rest of the great cast.
There is excellent use of the proscenium arch, having the tower on one side and the familiar Souter point on the other. Spencer and Hopper perform a great take on the famous Morecambe and Wise breakfast scene to well-deserved applause. The favourite slop scene even includes an elaborate ‘magic’ trick (Martin Duffy).
Often referred to as the little panto with the big heart, apart from the auditorium there is nothing little about Rapunzel. It is big on story, talent, song and musical arrangements (Dave Bintley), dance routines (Jacqui West) superb singing, with sound (Jordan Embleton) and lighting (John Rainsworth and Jen Stevens) being spot on, and great comedy with just the right amount of adult content. Above all the smaller auditorium adds to the unique sense of intimate family fun, entertainment and participation which many larger venues lack.
Being without many enjoyable activities for a depressingly long time heading down to The Customs House and seeing Rapunzel is the best tonic and will certainly put you in the festive spirit.
Runs until 8th January 2022