North Shields panto details announced
4 November 2021
Reporter: Peter Lathan
Details of Beauty and the Beast, this year’s panto at The Exchange in North Shields, have been announced. The show, produced by Mendes Management, is their second panto at the Exchange, having previously produced three others in community centres and other venues around Tyneside.
Beauty and the Beast runs from 30 November to 24 December and will be written and directed by Dale Meeks who has long experience of panto, having appeared in twenty alongside such stars as Mickey Rooney and Paul Michael Glaser and directed many more. His theatre credits include appearing in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Beautiful Game and touring nationally in Chicago. He began his professional career at the age of 14 in Byker Grove and went on to become a regular in Emmerdale as well as making an appearance in Heartbeat.
Matthew Lowery, who trained at Newcastle College, graduating in 2011, plays the Beast opposite Lucy Walton as Belle, who trained at Project A at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, graduating in 2016. She has worked with various NE companies such as Workie Ticket Theatre Company, The Customs House and Live Theatre. Theatre credits include Is This Your Story? at The Customs House, Perdition at The Exchange and The Metro Gnome Shows at Intu Metrocentre.
Craig Richardson returns to Mendes Management for his fourth year as the Jester. He started performing at the Pier Pavilion in South Shields for the Westovians, where he has performed in more than 38 of their productions and at least 15 of their pantomimes. He then went on to perform professionally in panto at the Customs House. Craig performed at the Metro Radio Arena in Sunday for Sammy. He also performed as Buttons in the Mendes Management 2019 production of Cinderella.
South Shields-born Janine Leigh returns as the Evil Sorceress, having previously played The Slave of the Ring and a Chinese Policeman in 2018’s Aladdin. She studied at Newcastle College and Cumbria Institute of the Arts. Previous theatre credits include A Piece of Cake, Who’s Under Where, Stepping Out, Blithe Spirit and A Night in Provence at The Mill Theatre at Sonning. TV credits include Byker Grove, Tracy Beaker Returns, The Interceptor and ITV’s Vera. She appeared alongside Joanne Froggatt in a film for Channel 4, In Our Name, which was nominated for several awards. Radio includes Believe It, alongside Richard Wilson and Sir Ian McKellen for BBC Radio 4.
Michael Geddes is another returner. He plays Belle’s father Maurice, having previously played Abanazar (and designed the set) in Aladdin and Baron Hardup in Cinderella.
The final cast member (apart from the dancers from Decote Dance, based at the Royal Quays Outlet North Shields) is a newcomer to the company, David Foster, who plays Dame Dora Cracklepot. Another member of the Westovians in South Shields, he graduated in 2008 with a BA in Drama and has since played Horatio in Hamlet and Bardolph in Henry V (both with Cranked Anvil), and Billy and Eddy in Stags and Hens and Stags and Hens Redux (Ion Productions).