A SOUTH Shields theatre is marking two decades as an entertainment venue this year.
The Customs House has stood at the Mill Dam site for almost 150 years, but, for the last 20, it has played host to amateur and professional performers.
The venue’s latest season brings one of its most ambitious projects home.
Follow The Herring is a project featuring performance, song and visual arts, featuring the play Get Up And Tie Your Fingers and the knitting exhibition Coat For A Boat.
The project is led by the Customs House in collaboration with Guild of Lillians Theatre Company. Port of Tyne is the main sponsor of the project, which is supported by Arts Council England. The project, will see the exhibition run from May 19 to 24 and the play performed from May 21 to 24.
Executive director Ray Spencer said: “We have a great new season ahead and the opportunity to use our new amphitheatre.
“We will have everything from silly sailors to aspiring pop stars, with a little bit of JM Barrie and Jane Austen thrown in.
“There’s lots to look forward to. Follow The Herring will arrive next month, we’ll be out on the river in August for Tyne Stories with Michael Chaplin, author of the hugely-popular Tyne and writer-in-residence at Port Of Tyne, and we’ll also be commemorating another part of our rich heritage with Cold In The Clay by Peter Lathan.”
Cold In The Clay is this year’s Customs House community project ,and runs from June 27 to 29.
It marks the 175th anniversary of the St Hilda Pit Disaster, where 51 men and boys were killed in an explosion, and explores the community’s reaction and one family in particular’s loss.
This year is the centenary of the start of the First World War, and the theatre is honouring it with a week of shows.
Drama Talbot House will take place on July 28 and 29, Glory In The Fire is an afternoon of poetry, music, film and photography on July 31, and the Customs House youth groups will present The World At War on August 2.
War Horse will also be returning to the cinema from July 28 to 30.
Ocean Arts will be looking at the women left at home in Homefront on June 24, while Dr Dan Jackson will present a talk on August 8.
Port of Tyne writer-in-residence Michael Chaplin is back to tell his tales with a river cruise on August 2 and 3.
South Shields writer Philip Meeks brings his latest play Keeping Up with the Joans ahead of its Edinburgh Festival Fringe run.
It stars veteran actors Susan Penhaligon, best known for 1970s drama Bouquet Of Barbed Wire, and Katy Manning, who played the much-loved Jo Grant opposite Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who, and runs from July 24 to 26.
The play is about two aging actresses in a retirement home who were once pals, but fell out over a part they both went for.
There are some great drama pieces, and the venue’s new Scratch night will help to unearth new writing talent on Friday, May 9. Other pieces include the musical Into The Woods on June 2 and 3; travel memoir The Moon Cannot Be Stolen on June 10 and 11; Catherine Cookson’s The Fifteen Streets from June 18 to 21, and an outdoor production of Pride And Prejudice on August 20.
There’s plenty of laughter to be had with the return of Comedy House on May 21, June 18 and July 16; Jimmy Cricket and Alfie Joey on May 10 and Gledhill and Callaghan on July 3.
The Customs House’s annual Summer School this year will see youngsters aged between eight and 21 working for three weeks to put on Annie Jr from August 8 to 10.
Wayne Miller, who would normally be at the Customs House during the winter as Santa’s Naughty Elf, will be bringing a new character to the Harton Quays Amphitheatre.
Silly Simon The Sailor runs from August 13 to 16 and will be the first show at the new amphitheatre.
There’s also a chance for youngsters to show off their talents in the South Tyneside Talent Search, which will take place on July 23 and 30 and August 6. The Pride of South Tyneside Young Performer of the Year Talent Night also takes place on May 8.
Starset Theatre will also return with Les Miserables on July 12 and 13.
There’s great music at the Customs House this summer with a mix of local and international talent gracing our stage.
Classical music fans can enjoy guitarist Gulio Tampalini on June 19, and pianist Adam Skournal on July 17.
This year sees the Customs House’s first Jazz Week.
Savannah Jazz Band will kick the week off on August 25; Chris Barber brings some world-class New Orleans jazz on August 28, and the week finishes with MOBO-award winning saxophonist YolanDa Brown on August 29. Other musical events includes the return of Customs House favourites Encore from May 13 to 17; Pride of South Tyneside winners The Waiters on August 16, and the return of the Bernicia Festival on August 30.
There’s also a fantastic line-up of some of the country’s best tribute acts.
May 3 will see a Michael Jackson tribute taking the audience on a trip through the King of Pop’s greatest hits, while On Tour with Elvis sees the king of rock ‘n’ roll’s hits brought to life on May 18.
There’s also Eagles tribute band Talon on June 4; nostalgia show Bless ‘Em All on June 5; a night of Queen with The Bohemians on June 6, and a chance to rock out with AC/DC UK on June 22.
Finally there’s a look to future shows, which includes panto Little Red Riding Hood and children’s show Santa’s Naughty Elf.
Tickets for all shows are now on sale.
To book tickets, call the box office on 454 1234 or visit www.customshouse.co.uk