Writers: Ray Spencer MBE and Graeme Thompson
Director: Ray Spencer MBE
Musical Director: Dave Bintley
Choreography: Jacqui West
Reviewer: Anna Ambelez
The Blaydon Races gives a rousing start to this classic story of love, friendship and jealousy, Snow White. The ensuing clapping and loud cheer melts into the opening scene with the Evil Queen (Steven Lee Hamilton) dominating centre stage in front of ‘the mirror’. Minerva, The Mirror (Bethan Amber) enriches the plot later with an added intrigue. The plot unfolds with the other central characters appearing scene by scene; after Hamilton, Arbuthnot (Davey Hopper) enters followed by his’mum’ Dame Bella Ballcock(Ray Spencer) then Snow White, (Annie Guy)and finally Prince of the North (Dale Jewitt)
Two other charming characters Sniffy(Charlie Raine) and Whiffy (Luke Maddison) are introduced after about 40 minutes in, giving a new twist to the tale. Furry, fun talking animals are always a hit with the children and these two prove the point, Their baggy furry costumes with elaborate headgear and make up does not hide their impish sense of humour. The ‘dwarves’ are creatively presented as ‘Minor Miners’ each having their own unique name, delightful character and accent. The addition of a few items of furniture transforms a bare stage into their domestic setting. The four principal dancers ( South Tyneside Dance Workshop Jacqui West) make up an impressive cast of 19.
Spencer knows how to add just the right amount of adult innuendo to keep the mums and dads happy; he and Thompson have managed to give the fairy tale several new twists, while still maintaining its essential story. The ‘true loves kiss’ that traditionally breaks the evil spell on Snow White has a great new innovation and the embodiment of innocent goodness is rewarded in the end. All is directed under the guiding experienced hand of father and daughter team, assistant director Natasha Haws.
The lighting (John Rainsforth) adds dramatically to various scenes, changing the mood of many backdrops, such as the second half opening bathed in intense sinister red for the Evil Queen, then warm lilac’s for the prince. While this may be billed as The ‘Little Panto’ there in nothing little about the set or costume design (Matt Fox and Paul Shriek); it abounds with beautifully bold, busy brightness yet has an intrinsic delicacy, easy to see its award winning provenance. All of the traditional elements are here, the compulsory slop scene in the mine under the castle sewerage system, with Spencer and Hopper slipping, sliding and falling, say no more! ‘the‘take off scene’ and community song, a novel twist on the words of Blaydon races, which was a little difficult to join in with no visible words. The musical arrangements (Dave Bintley) are impeccable as always.
One of the most famous fairy stories in the world, possibly dating back to the middle ages is probably best known from the 1937 Walt Disney film. The Grimm Brothers wrote it up in 1812 and The Customs House have chosen it to celebrate their 25th anniversary, not having performed it since 1994. The walk down features red and green, which they say should never be seen, but this’ little panto with the big heart’ definitely should be seen, as the packed theatre would attest to.
Runs until 5th January 2020 | Image: Chris J. Allan