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South Shields panto stars set off to Sweden

SOUTH Shields is to teach the Swedes a thing or do about pantomime – oh, yes it is!

Ray Spencer and Bob Stott as Widow Twanky and Wishy Washy

SOUTH Shields is to teach the Swedes a thing or do about pantomime – oh, yes it is!

A team from The Customs House is packing bags, and presumably wigs, lipstick and bit of slapstick, to set off to Sweden to give a lesson in panto.

Wishy Washy and Widow Twanky – also known as panto favourites Ray Spencer and Bob Stott, stars of the theatre’s current show Aladdin – have been invited to Gothenburg to introduce a group of Swedish writers, performers and producers to a British institution.

Joined by Abanazar (Peter Darrant), and Princess Amira (Alice Brown), it means that once the last night of the panto run wraps up on Saturday, they’ll be planning next weekend’s trip with Graeme Thompson – pantomime writer with Spencer – and renowned costume and set designer Paul Shriek.

The team exporting their magic panto formula will work with theatre groups over two days in Sweden’s second largest city to produce a short workshop performance which will be open to the public as well as invited guests.

Organisers say this is the first time the classic British art of pantomime has been performed in Sweden.

Graeme Thompson, who is also dean of the Faculty of Arts Design and Media at the University of Sunderland, said: “This wonderful opportunity has come about because the university was part of a North East creative industries exchange with Gothenburg last year.

“Our Swedish colleagues were intrigued at the way in which British pantomime uses music, political satire, topical references and well-known characters such as the Dame and the Villain to refresh popular fairy stories and folk tales.

“Our hosts invited us to work with theatre groups in Gothenburg to see if they could learn from us how to adapt some of these themes to their own dramatic traditions.

“So we’ll be giving them a taste of our current record-breaking production of Aladdin.”

The visit is organised by Sweden’s Honorary Consul Caroline Theobald and The Customs House is one of a number of North East cultural and creative organisations going to Gothenberg from January 15. Another is Northern Stage, in Newcastle which, interested in works by Swedish playwrights, will be talking to the artistic directors of theatres as well as young people with a view to future joint projects.

Thompson added: “Our hosts are aware that The Customs House show is one of the most successful pantomimes in the UK, not least because of the pairing of Ray Spencer and Bob Stott who have been performing as Tommy and Dame Dotty for more than three decades.

“Who better to teach the traditions of panto?”

The theatre’s executive director Ray Spencer, who co-writes, directs and stars in the show, said: “I am absolutely honoured to have been asked to run this workshop with The Customs House team.

“To be the first people to take a British institution like panto to Sweden is something I will never forget.

“They will be used to stories like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and we’ll be giving them Widow Twanky and the Magic Lamp!

“It should be tremendous experience.”

To see what all the fuss is about, visit www.customshouse.co.uk or call 0191 454 1234 for tickets for the final days of the Aladdin run, which ends on Saturday.


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