The Customs House South Shields Pantomime 2017 | The Lambton Worm Review

*Press review

Another day, another panto and I personally think that The Lambton Worm at The Customs House in South Shields has been the best one we've watched yet. I love that they selected a treasured local story to tell this year and it makes a refreshing change from the usual fairytales that run on loop at most theatres year after year. 

The no1 reason this panto works so well for me is Ray Spencer. As well as writing and directing the production, he also stars as Dame Bella Ballcock and plays the role extremely well. Where other pantos have obviously staged and scripted mishaps and things that aren't 'supposed' to happen on stage, Ray Spencer commands the stage with such ease that going off script, forgetting the words, interacting with the audience just kind of happens as part of the evening and it's a joy to watch. There's such a natural chemistry between the cast too and there are fits of proper giggles from both them and the audience throughout. I'd take this kind of panto over a polished routine any day and not knowing what to expect all adds to the fun.

There are so many things I loved about The Lambton Worm so I'm going to apologise for a bit of a gushy review (it's all genuine though). The two leading ladies - Eleanor Chaganis as Princess Aneesa and Natasha Haws as Susie the Soothsayer are both fantastic. Their voices are wonderful, their costumes flamboyant and they both just seem to take to their roles with absolute ease. 

Everyone knows I love a good villain and Georgia Nicholson as Poison Pen is superb. Every single part of her screams evil from the way she walks to her loathing facial expressions and tone of voice. I LOVED her. She very much reminded me of Grotbags and was subject to plenty of boos when she appeared on stage. The main story of this version of The Lambton Worm is that Poison Pen is going to release The Lambton Worm into Cooksonville as revenge for John Lambton breaking her heart when they were kids. John Lambton is played by Steven Lee Hamilton who you may remember played the role of Fleshcreep last year (where he stole the show in my opinion). I wasn't sure how I'd take to him playing the good guy but thankfully it worked really well and we were all cheering for The Brave & Bold John Lambton to win the day. 

David John Hopper returns as the much-loved Arbuthnot and he begins with the line that it feels that he's never been away, and it's true! Arbuthnot is very much a part of the Customs House Panto and it's like watching an old friend. Poor Arbuthnot is the butt of most of the jokes and although you do feel sorry for him, you can't help but laugh along with him. A series of incidents include a hilarious decorating scene which does not end well and what has to be the worst superhero costume that's ever appeared on stage. You always feel as if you are laughing along with Arbuthnot and not at him and it's all in good jest.

Gareth Hunter as The Sultan and Cal Halbert as Lord Larry Lambton are both a hoot and despite me reading the programme before the show and thinking that perhaps there are one too many characters, this certainly wasn't the case and their one-liners are just perfect. 

If I had to find any fault with this year's production it would probably have to be Puddles the Dog. I really expected to love him but I didn't leave the show wanting to buy a cuddly toy version like I thought I might. I just didn't really see the point of him if I'm honest although I'm sure the younger members of the audience were smitten. 

I would love to give a massive shout out to South Tyneside Dance Workshop who appear in several scenes throughout. The young dancers did not put a foot wrong and were fabulous - they should be really proud of themselves. 

The Lambton Worm has everything you'd like in a panto and more. There are plenty of 'he's behind yous' and boos, an epic 'oh no there isn't-off' (I think I just invented that phrase), an audience sing-off, beautiful music, singing and costumes, just the right amount of slapstick, lots of audience interaction and impromptu jokes, comedy moments a plenty, Christmas songs, a hero, a villain, many funny local references and even a sprinkling of snow. 

Here are the scores on the doors:

Sam - 9/10
Steve - 9/10
Harry - 8/10
Heidi - 10/10
Jack - 10/10 

The Lambton Worm | All you need to know

  • Foam hands are for sale in the foyer - £3 each or 2 for £5
  • Drinks bill from the bar (1 pint of Stella, 2 cokes, 1 blackcurrant juice) = £8
  • Popcorn and ice cream for sale before and after the show
  • There aren't many scary parts (the Lambton worm is more of a comedy worm than a scary one) and it's a very family-friendly performance with a handful of grown-up jokes
  • Free parking is avialable on site
  • Puddles the Dog soft toys are available to buy for £15 
  • Run time = 150 minutes including a short interval 
  • Take some change to pop in the charity buckets on the way out - the panto raised £11k for charity last year. 
  • The Lambton Worm continues until 6 Jan 2018 and tickets are available from just £9.99

You can read our other 2017 Panto reviews here: 



  1. Oh it was lovely to read this. Arlo is going with school this week but we won't be with him so it's nice to know what he'll be watching. By the sounds of it, he'll be chomping at the bit to tell me all about it when I pick him up from school.

  2. I'm going on Saturday and I can't wait to see it. It's the first time my Mam will see Eleanor preform I can't wait as she's had such a good review! Katie x

  3. Sorry Puddles is a fab part of the panto. My cousins and 3 grandsons loved him


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