Christmas Customs

Peter Lathan

For most theatres in the UK, Christmas is the busiest time of the year and that’s because it’s panto time and there are very few families who don’t see at least one panto in the three months between November and January.

However for South Shields Customs House, Christmas is more than just panto, more even than its “Little Panto with the Big Heart” which attracts record audiences and critical acclaim year after year. There’s its special show for the under-7s, shows which include festive food and lots of other special Christmas attractions.

This year’s panto is The Lambton Worm, a County Durham legend which is celebrated in the North East folk song of the same name, a song which has its 150th anniversary this year. The casting for that show was announced at the end of August, but now the whole Customs House Christmas programme has been revealed.

The Lambton Worm runs in the main theatre from Tuesday 28 November 2017 until Saturday 6 January 2018 and alongside it is the show for the under-7s, Santa’s Naughty Elf—A Christmas Carol, written by and starring Wayne Miller, which runs (daytime only) from Saturday 2 December until Christmas Eve in the Studio.

Inspired by the Charles Dickens story, audiences will be transported back in time to find out how the naughty elf Elfluent, played by Miller, earned his title—and whether he can mend his ways and become the elf that Santa knows he can be.

The Dickens classic makes another appearance on 13 December (in Daltons Suite) in the form of A Christmas Carol: A Folk Opera from GreenMatthews, with special guest Jude Rees. The show’s first half presents a blend of Victorian carols and midwinter folk songs which paint a vivid and colourful picture of the festive season in Dickens’s time, and the second half is an hour-long folk opera retelling the story of Scrooge and the Cratchits, presented entirely in narrative song, using brand-new lyrics set to traditional English folk and carol melodies.

Also in Daltons, on 11 December, is a Christmas Murder Mystery which includes a three-course meal and festive whodunit. It’s festive because it’s set during a pantomime but that’s all that can be revealed at the moment, for local writer David Foster is being very mysterious, keeping his cards close to his chest.

For music lovers, on 14 December, Danny Reed performs in Christmas Swing with the singer entertaining diners during a three-course meal. Then Angela’s Festive Frolics makes its annual appearance on Monday, December 18, at 2:00—an afternoon of Christmas fun, turkey broth, mince pie and, obviously, a cuppa.

Finally, film fans can look forward to special screenings of Miracle on 34th Street from 4 to 7 December and Elf from 20 to 24 December.