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Alice in Wonderland review at Customs House, South Shields – ‘real party atmosphere’

Anne-Marie Owens and Stephen Sullivan in Alice in Wonderland at Customs House, South Shields. Photo: Craig Leng Anne-Marie Owens and Stephen Sullivan in Alice in Wonderland at Customs House, South Shields. Photo: Craig Leng

Alice in Wonderland stretches the panto genre almost to its limit, but this little company with a big heart has produced a lively show with a real party atmosphere. Writer, director and dame extraordinaire, Ray Spencer, aka the Duchess, has concentrated on all the traditional laughter-making aspects of pantomime. Despite a rather tenuous storyline, it’s loud with a cacophony of booing and hissing, tons of “behind you” and sing-a-long songs, plus the inevitable, crazy slapstick baking scene.

Paul Shriek’s costumes are gloriously eccentric; his attention to detail and innovative use of fabric is first class.

The surprise star is mezzo soprano Anne-Marie Owens’ performance as the spiteful Queen of Hearts. Born in South Shields, Owens has performed with many of the worlds’ great opera companies and orchestras, including English National Opera. This is her first pantomime and she absolutely stole the show.

Also in fine voice with oodles of acting talent are Natasha Haws (Alice), Afnan Iftikhar (Knave of Hearts) and Steven Lee Hamilton as the Mad Hatter.

A great performance is also given by Luke Maddison as the bumbling White Rabbit, and Craig Richardson and Gareth Hunter delivered fine comedy timing as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

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A traditional festive show with a real party atmosphere