South Shields theatre regular gears up for panto season

Gareth Hunter as The Sultan and Eleanor Chaganis as The Princess.
Gareth Hunter as The Sultan and Eleanor Chaganis as The Princess.

Multi-talented Gareth Hunter has rarely been away from The Customs House this year - and panto season means its has practically become his second hme.

After being involved in several shows as an actor, singer, producer, director, talent show judge and voice-over artist at the theatre in Mill Dam, South Shields, he is getting ready for his fourth appearance in the theatre’s annual pantomime - playing The Sultan in The Lambton Worm which opens next Tuesday.

Gareth, from South Shields, who founded Ion Productions in 2005, said: “I love panto because I rock up and get to have fun on stage with a great group of people.

“There’s none of the stress involved when it’s your own production.”

Gareth will spend about 40 minutes in make-up before donning a body suit, very large turban and “decent-sized” Cuban heels to get into character.

He said: “It’s very warm.”

The Sultan’s daughter is played by Eleanor Chaganis, 25, also from South Shields, who appeared in The Customs House panto for the first time last year as the Fairy in Jack and the Beanstalk.

She said: “Christmas is my favourite time of year and being in my home town, doing something I love and performing in front of my family and friends, is going to be amazing.

“I think everyone knows The Lambton Worm song, but there are so many different versions of the story and it is of such massive local interest, it will be interesting to see what The Customs House panto’s take on it will be.

“I had an amazing time last year and I can’t wait to do it all again.”

The Lambton Worm panto has been written by Ray Spencer and Graeme Thompson as a celebration of the 150 th anniversary of the popular North East folk song, which was first published in 1867.

The song tells the story of John Lambton, heir to the Lambton Estate in County Durham, who returns home from the Crusades to do battle with a giant worm that has been terrorising the local villages in his absence.

Like all myths, details of the story change with each telling and The Customs House will be putting its own unique panto spin on the tale between Tuesday, November 28 and Saturday, January 6.

The Lambton Worm also stars Steven Lee Hamilton as The Brave and Bold Sir John, Natasha Haws as Susie Soothsayer from Southwick, Georgia Nicholson as Poison Pen from Penshaw, Cal Halbert as Lord Larry Lambton and Lewis Jobson as Puddles the Dog.

Tickets, priced from £9.99, are available from the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or online at