After a lovely wander around Durhams’ shops and cobbled streets on a crisp cold afternoon, we headed to the Gala Theatre for the Press Night of their “Swashbuckling Family Panto” Robinson Crusoe. The girls asked us to tell them the story of Robinson Crusoe and showing our literary lack of knowledge we weren’t 100% certain.
Alan mentioned it was about a guy on a desert island…and had some vague knowledge of Man Friday… but then I think he started getting confused with Tom Hanks in Castaway. So we went in knowing little of the true story but an open mind. A pantomime has the artistic liability to go in any direction! And it’s great to find something a little different.
Gala Theatre Durham
If you haven’t been to Durham Gala Theatre before it is well worth checking out. Located right in the centre of Durham city in a relatively modern development with restaurants and bars around (Ask, Chiquitos, and Wetherspoons amongst others) it would make a perfect date night out. Parking was a breeze in the nearby Monks Cross which has snazzy vehicle registration recognition to log your time.
The Gala Theatre has loads of stuff going on for all the family this December including cinema screenings, an under 5’s Christmas show “Mrs Claus Kitchen” and the risque “The Suggestibles Impro Pantso” (which is definitely not for kids but looks hilarious). The main draw of the season is always the pantomime though and this one is written by and stars Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley who play Captain Blackheart and Billy Bob Crusoe respectively. These guys know their stuff as they have worked together on the theatre’s panto for numerous years.
We arrived early and spent a little time in the Theatre’s foyer. The girl’s we desperate for the merchandise stall to open. While we had the chance we grabbed a comfy seat and had a quick drink at the bar.
A keen eye will spot that being a pirate based show, Parrots are dotted around the foyer. One on one of the merchant ship and I spotted this tree topper!
As a side, the merchandise was very reasonable with glow up wands and the like starting from £1.50 which won’t break the bank. Even the ushers on the door were in pirate regalia. I love it when a theme is pulled through to the whole experience. Taking our seats we were ready to be entertained and to let the pirate-themed story unfold.
The stage opened to Captain Blackheart (Neil Armstrong) on his pirate ship the Boaty McBoat Face (Mark 2) instructing his crew to walk the plank! As the crew slipped into the water the glamorous Goddess of the Sea ‘Aqua Marina’ (Jayne MacKenzie) appeared with her Sirens instructing Captain Blackheart and his second in command Percy Perkins (Lauren Waine) to head to Durham. Here Captain Blackheart would send Percy (really called Polly) to find Robinson Crusoe (Jamie Brown) and recruit him on his quest to find the Pearl of Wisdom.
In pantomime land, a lot of the scenes are stolen by the Dame (Paul Dunn) as Connie Crusoe did not disappoint.
Along with her younger son Billy Bob, they were bent on discouraging Robinson from going to Sea or ‘the way of his fatha’ who it transpired had not really drown at sea but had run off with another woman. For some bizarre reason, they also have a parrot called Pecky who eats chips and has been fed so much by the family he cannot fly anymore.
There are some brilliant musical performances from Robinson and Polly when they fall in love (Meghan Trainer’s ‘Dear Future Husband’) which proved she was as capable as any of the guys. Not your stereotypical leading lady waiting to be saved. Connie with her family business cleaning carts led to a brilliant ‘Car Wash’ replaced by ‘Cart Wash’ all in 70’s flares.
As the plot moved swiftly from the pirate ship to the island of the Pearl, there were some fantastic performances from the young cast members, who played the pirate crew and the marooned children on the island. We actually recognised some of the kids from Seussical the Musical last summer, so it’s great they are still loving performing at the Gala Theatre. There were plenty of gags from Captain Blackheart as he interacted with some unsuspecting members of the audience! (phew for being in Row K) and a very funny slapstick scene when Connie and Billy Bob were stuck in some quicksand on the island.
We had a fantastic night of pantomine fun at Robinson Crusoe and would recommend the show to everyone. The show was full of the usual innuendoes, comedy acts, musical performances to a live band and fantastic staging. Durham is a lovely city and we had a great time soaking in the atmosphere before an entertaining night of pantomime fun.
Tickets cost between £6 and £17 with family tickets also available.
A BSL interpreted performance will take place on Sunday, 10 December, while a relaxed performance for people with autism and their families will take place on Thursday, 14 December.
For tickets visit www.galadurham.co.uk or call the box office on 03000 266 600.