Record numbers flock to see the '˜little panto with a big heart'

A record number of theatre goers took in this year's award-winning panto in South Tyneside.

Jack and the Beanstalk completed a run of 69 performances at the Customs House, in South Shields.

The events attracted a total audience of 27,000 - 2,000 more than the 2015/2016 panto Alice in Wonderland.

The show was also awarded the Most Entertaining Pantomime accolade in the prestigious North East Theatre Guide Best of 2016 guide.

The panto was co-written by Customs House executive director Ray Spencer MBE, who also starred in and directed it.

Long-time collaborator Graeme Thompson, pro-vice chancellor at the University of Sunderland, was Ray’s co-writer.

Ray said: “It’s hugely gratifying and humbling to think so many people chose to make our little panto with the big heart part of their festive celebrations.

The full cast of Jack and the Beanstalk

“We never take our audience for granted and this year’s cast worked especially hard to ensure those who put their trust in us were rewarded with a couple of hours of pure fun.

“I’d like to thank my fellow cast members, the wider Customs House team, our generous sponsors, and our audiences for making Jack and the Beanstalk a very special and memorable show.”

Ray played Dame Trott, while Luke Madison played Jack and newcomer David John Hopper played the Dame’s other son Arbuthnot.

Steve Lee Hamilton played the evil Fleshcreep, Natasha Haws was the principal girl Eloise, Gareth Hunter played her dad the Mayor and Eleanor Chaganis was the Fairy.

Wayne Miller as Elfluent

For the seventh consecutive year, the show’s set and costumes were designed by Paul Shriek and Matt Fox.

Also celebrating record numbers was The Customs House’s panto for under-sevens, Santa’s Naughty Elf.

The show, written, directed and starring Wayne Miller, was seen by more than 4,500 people.

Ray is already planning this year’s panto, The Lambton Worm.

He said: “It’s the 150th anniversary of the famous song, which was actually written for a panto. It was also the first panto performed here at The Customs House, so the time was right for us to do it again.

“The Lambton Worm legend is a great story and one that lends itself to a panto. I’m very grateful to Hays Travel, who very generously have once again agreed to be our main sponsor.”

More than 3,000 tickets have already been sold for the show, which will start on November 28.

Tickets are available from the box office on 0191 454 1234 or by logging on to The Customs House’s new website at

The full cast of Jack and the Beanstalk
Wayne Miller as Elfluent