Thursday, 22 October 2015

Preview: Alice in Wonderland at South Shields Customs House

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Join Alice for an Adventure in Pantoland

Alice in Wonderland
South Shields Customs House
Tuesday 1st December 2015 to Saturday 9th January 2016.

The countdown to panto has begun and there really is plenty to celebrate at this year’s Customs House show. The ‘Little Panto with the Big Heart’ returns with a trip down the rabbit hole with festive treat, Alice in Wonderland.

This year the Mill Dam venue in South Shields marks 150 years since it opened its doors, so it made perfect sense to choose Lewis Carroll’s wacky tale, which also celebrate 150 years, just ahead of panto season.

Customs House Executive Director Ray Spencer, who co-writes the panto with Graeme Thompson and also directs the annual show, will be leading the cast from December 1 to January 9 as the dame The Duchess. He said: “This is a significant year for The Customs House; the building has been open 150 years, we have been an entertainments venue for 21 years and this is my 40th pantomime. We wanted something special for a special year and Alice in Wonderland is sure to be a panto you won’t forget. There’s so much to celebrate, don’t be late – get your tickets now.”

While the theatre and panto are celebrating some big numbers they also have a fantastic first to revel in.  Opera star Anne-Marie Owens will make her pantomime debut as The Queen of Hearts.  The soprano, who has performed all over the world, said: “I came to last year’s show and went backstage to meet the cast and my sister, Jane, told Ray I had always wanted to be in pantomime.  Ray got in contact to say that he had been thinking about Alice in Wonderland and he couldn't get my name out of his head. I thought he was mad but I thought why not. I can’t wait to join The Customs House pantomime.”

Designers Paul Shriek and Matt Fox are back to create their stunning costumes and set. Paul, who has been involved with the panto for the last six years, added: “The escape into our colourful wonderland is a journey we hope all the family would enjoy.”
The show is already selling fast ahead of last year with more than 16,000 tickets booked up.

Natasha Haws returns as principal girl, this time as Alice following her triumphant debut as Little Red Riding Hood last year.  She said: “It’s so good to be back and I’m looking forward to playing this iconic role.”

Long-time Customs House panto favourite Steven Lee Hamilton will become Mad Hatter, while comic duo Gareth Hunter and Craig Richardson will take on Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee.

Luke Maddison and Kylie Ann Ford, who were both pigs in Little Red Riding Hood, will once again become creatures with Luke playing the White Rabbit and Kylie taking on the role of the Dormouse.

Stephen Sullivan returns this year as not one but two characters, taking on the roles of the King of Hearts and Mad March Hare. Also back on The Customs House stage after four years away from Cooksonville will be Afnan Iftikhar, who featured in TV talent show Superstar.

For exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, competitions and all the latest news in Wonderland follow #BigHeart @thecustomshouse.

Anne-Marie Owens – Queen of Hearts
Ray Spencer – Duchess
Natasha Haws – Alice
Steven Lee Hamilton – Mad Hatter
Luke Maddison – White Rabbit
Afnan Iftikhar – Knave of Hearts
Stephen Sullivan – King of Hearts & Mad March Hare
Kylie Ann Ford – Dormouse
Gareth Hunter & Craig Richardson – Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee

Alice in Wonderland, sponsored by Hays Travel, is at The Customs House from Tuesday 1st December 2015 to Saturday 9th January 2016.
Tickets, priced from £9, are available from the box office on 0191 454 1234 or from

Photo Credit: Craig Leng Photography

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