Costume designers bring panto to life

Paul Shriek and Matt Fox with their Customs House panto set.
Paul Shriek and Matt Fox with their Customs House panto set.

All the world is a stage - and one of the UK’s most respected costume designers has again brought a sprinkle of magic to the Christmas panto in South Tynbeside.

This year is the seventh consecutive Customs House panto that Paul Shriek and Matt Fox have worked on - this time producing the sets and costumes for Jack and the Beanstalk, which runs until January 7.

Tommy the Trumpeters portrait hidden in the set

Tommy the Trumpeters portrait hidden in the set

The duo, who established their brand Fox and Shriek in 2012, say they created this year’s stunning sets and costumes after being inspired by a variety of sources ranging from French painter James Tissot and Edwardian Paris to Ridley Scott’s Alien movies.

Paul has, in his career, created costumes for big names including Welsh National Opera, Cois Ceim Ireland and Scottish Dance Theatre.

Similarly Matt, a digital artist and designer, has created digital fabrics and projections for National Dance Company of Wales, Dansformation, Northumberland, Park and Dare Theatre, Wales.

Paul said: “For this year’s panto, we felt it important that Cooksonville, the traditional setting for the Customs House panto, felt otherworldly – not of this planet.

Paul Shriek and Matt Fox with their Customs House panto set.

Paul Shriek and Matt Fox with their Customs House panto set.

“There’s a nod to the new The Word building in South Shields, but all of the sets in the giant’s world above the clouds have a futuristic feel.

“We wanted to give the impression of a floating city above the clouds and have worked to create a 3D feel to the set.

“The stage floor, will spills out into the audience, helps to create this feeling.

“The giant’s kitchen had its challenges, with everything having to be much larger than life.

Shriek and Fox with Eleanor Chaganis who plays Fairy Arachis.

Shriek and Fox with Eleanor Chaganis who plays Fairy Arachis.

“We had great fun solving the practical problems, some of which we were still grappling with a week or two before curtain up.”

Work on the intricate sets and costumes starts about 11 months in advance.

Once writer, director, producer and star Ray Spencer has revealed what panto he’s planning for the following year, Paul and Matt start working on ideas.

This year, as in the past, there are a few cheeky portraits included in the set – one of Ray Spencer’s former alter-ego Tommy the Trumpeter and two portraits of Paul and Matt.

Many of the sets are based on original drawings by Paul Shriek.

Many of the sets are based on original drawings by Paul Shriek.

Ray said: “Paul and Matt are hugely talented, patient and great to work with.

“Their costumes and sets help set us apart from the rest, and their much-commented on work is now very much integral to the success of The Customs House panto.”

Jack and the Beanstalk, sponsored by Hays Travel, is on until January 7, 2017.

Tickets start from £9.75 and are available from the box office on 0191 454 1234 or by logging on to The Customs House’s new website at www.customshouse.co.uk

Follow the panto on Twitter at @Jack_In_Panto