School holidays, the time parent’s country-wide dread! It’s not easy, or cheap to keep the kids entertained and whilst there are plenty of things you can do at home it can often leave you feeling rather stir-crazy after just a few days. Today marks the last day of the Easter break for us here in Cumbria and earlier this week we were invited by Stacy from Walton-Gunn Productions to travel to the Westovian Theatre in South Shields to watch their specially created Easter Panto. Having loved his first taste of panto at Christmas, Leo was super excited to get the chance to go to another ‘live person’ show and I couldn’t wait to have a short break away from watching Peppa Pig continuously!
Walton-Gunn Productions was created by talented couple Stacy Walton and Wayne Miller, both of whom have years of stage experience under their belts. Their latest production. Peter Plank In It’s Bearly Easter, not only starred Wayne in its lead role, but was also written and directed by the local actor!
The show told the story of Mummy and Daddy Bear who set out to enjoy some couple time with a picnic in the park whilst Baby Bear is at school. However, they spot a poster for a forthcoming talent show and are desperate to take part and relive their youth performing in the Circus. Of course, being a panto things aren’t that straightforward and with some ‘help’ from their friend Peter Plank and some meddling from baddie Gannabee Hellon we were taken along on a fun filled journey with the Bears to see if they would be able to come together to star in the show.
Despite only being a small cast, the talent was astounding. Made up of local North East performers including Mel Cavanagh who starred in the 2016 series of BBC’s The Voice and local actors Steven Stobbs and Steven Sullivan the quality of both the acting and singing was outstanding, I was especially blown away by the singing and it was clear other members of the audience felt the same way.
In the age-old tradition of panto there were plenty of adult jokes that went over the little ones heads, but had us ‘rolling’ in the aisles, my friend and I agreed we hadn’t laughed like that in a long time. I’m sure there were parts that were ad libbed too which just added to the hilarity. The kids loved the silliness and physical comedy of Peter Plank and Leo has done nothing but chat my ear off about the ‘funny man’ all week – the banana scene was a particular highlight Wayne!
Peter Plank very quickly had the audience in the palm of his hand , getting them to join in with the compulsory booing and interaction whilst playing the perfect flip side to Steven Sullivan’s baddie, Gannabee Hallon. Quite a few of the jokes were aimed at a local audience , but luckily for me I have a pretty good knowledge of the North East so wasn’t left scratching my head and they went down a treat with everyone at the show, so they obviously know from experience how to perfectly pitch their content.
A special mention must also be given to the six wonderful young dancers that performed alongside the cast. Chosen from a selection of local schools they all danced amazingly well despite the somewhat daunting experience of a live audience. In fact their fabulous performance has inspired my friends daughter who spent the car journey home quizzing us on how she could get a job dancing on stage!
I’d never been to the Westovian Theatre before but, situated close to the sea front it’s quaint, old fashioned style was extremely charming and added something extra to our theatre experience. I was also really impressed with the prices charged for the snacks, ice creams and those must-have flashing toys kids love – the kids got a flashing ring and an ice cream each for under £4, a bargain anywhere I’m sure you’ll agree!
We all loved the show from start to finish and when it finished we were genuinely shocked to see we had been in the theatre for two hours when in fact it had felt like a matter of minutes, which is testament to what a fabulous time we had – I could have happily watched more! The shows script was well-written and executed to perfection, with something to keep the whole family entertained, exactly what a panto should be. Family fun entertainment at it’s best and at only £30 for a family it offered a lot of fun at a pocket-friendly price!