Side-splitting comedy, thrilling theatre, fantastic live music and a spectacular Christmas pantomime all feature in Gala Theatre’s autumn line-up.
The season kicks off with London Classic Theatre’s production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends on Tuesday, 1 September and Wednesday, 2 September.
First produced in 1974, this tragi-comedy is one of Olivier and Tony Award-winning Ayckbourn’s finest plays. An exploration of friendship, marriage and what it means to be happy, it showcases Ayckbourn’s acute social observation at its very best.
There’s also murder and mystery in September courtesy of Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit The Mousetrap (Monday, 14 September to Saturday, 19 September).
This box office smash-hit finds a group of strangers stranded in a country house during a snow storm. Proceedings take a dark turn when they discover that there is a murderer in their midst.
Expect breath-taking suspense and a brilliantly intricate plot in what has become the longest-running show in the history of British theatre – just don’t give away the ending.
Opera fans are in for a treat with two of the genre’s most popular companies visiting Durham this autumn.
English Touring Opera return to Gala with performances of two classic French operas – Massenet’s tragic story of forbidden love, Werther, and Offenbach’s masterpiece The Tales of Hoffman (Monday, 26 October and Tuesday, 27 October).
And there’s a brand new production by London Festival Opera on Thursday, 10 September. The company’s A Night at the Opera features works by Bizet, Mozart, Rossini, Verdi and Gilbert and Sullivan.
This season’s line-up of music icons have clocked up millions of record sales, numerous international chart-topping singles and a large collection of awards.
Audiences will definitely feel like dancing when Leo Sayer stops off at Gala on Tuesday, 29 September as part of his Restless Years tour. He’ll be performing new material as well some of his biggest hits including Moonlighting, Thunder in My Heart and When I Need You.
The Searchers are back in Durham on Monday, 28 September when they’ll be performing a string of classic hits such as Sweets For My Sweet and When You Walk in the Room, while on Friday, 9 October, shanty singers Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends will demonstrate why they’ve been delighting audiences for more than 15 years.
Oh What a Night it will be on Friday, 30 October, when the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons is brought to Gala by the talented singers and musicians of Let’s Hang On, and there will be a party extravaganza on Monday, 2 November as Gala celebrates the 30th anniversary of That’ll Be The Day, the nation’s favourite rock ‘n’ roll variety show.
The ever popular Durham Book Festival is back in October (Tuesday, 6 October to Saturday, 17 October) with an exciting programme of authors and speakers heading to Gala.
Among the big names featured in this year’s programme are Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, and Bill Bryson, who will discuss his latest trip around Britain.
Meanwhile, Mary Portas, known for her TV show Mary: Queen of Shops, visits Gala to discuss her memoir Shop Girl.
There’s plenty to laugh about at Gala over the coming months with appearances by an array of comedy talent.
A who’s who of stand-up includes Phoenix Nights’ Dave Spikey (Thursday, 24 September), tiny keyboard-wielding David O’Doherty (Wednesday, 28 October), self-proclaimed grumpy woman Jenny Éclair (Thursday, 29 October), funny man Ed Byrne (Sunday, 8 November) and Edinburgh Fringe favourite Jason Byrne (Saturday, 14 November).
With an array of family-friendly shows, this season’s programme has something for all ages.
A cast of awesome prehistoric creatures come to life in Dinosaur Zoo (Friday, 2 October to Sunday, 4 October) when audiences can get up close and personal with a collection of dinosaurs including a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
TakeOff Festival, one of the biggest celebrations of children and young people’s theatre, brings a number of shows to Gala between Monday, 19 October and Sunday, 25 October.
The line-up includes balletLORENT’s presentation of Snow White (Wednesday, 21 October), Propeller Theatre Company’s version of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, titled Pocket Merchant (Thursday, 22 October) and the hilarious family film noir The Falcon’s Malteser (Saturday, 24 October).
After the success of last year’s Elf’s Christmas Adventure show, Gala’s festive friend is back this year with Elf’s Christmas Toys (Friday, 4 December to Thursday, 24 December).
And, of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Gala’s traditional family pantomime. This year’s production of rags-to-riches story Cinderella will be filled with the usual helpings of magic and mayhem.
Written, directed by and starring Gala favourites Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley, this year’s show promises to once again make the festive season complete for families across the region.
Robin Byers, Durham County Council’s service manager for place and experience, said: “We’ve got an exciting, jam-packed line-up of events at Gala this autumn with something to suit every age and taste.
“And there’s also plenty going on behind the scenes, with our pantomime regulars Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley stepping up to write and direct this year’s fun-packed family production of Cinderella.
“Neil and Paul have a wealth of panto and theatre experience and know exactly what Gala audiences want from our festive shows. I’m sure everyone will be delighted with what they have in store.”
•To book tickets, visit the box office, call 03000 266 600 or go online at www.galadurham.co.uk, where full details of the autumn programme are available.