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Gala Panto kicks off with a bang as fastest selling to date


Oct 15, 2016

Durham’s Gala Theatre is celebrating as Jack and the Beanstalk, its hilarious family panto for 2016, is already breaking records as the fastest-selling panto in the theatre’s history

With over 22,000 tickets already sold, Jack and the Beanstalk is set to be the festive highlight for many with its roller coaster ride of panto mayhem, featuring an all-star local line-up of principals, full supporting cast, dancers, live band…oh and a friendly cow called Milkshake.

Following last year’s acclaimed and best-selling panto Cinderella, creative duo Neil Armstrong and Paul Harley are back to write, direct and star in the Gala Theatre Pantomime once more.

Always a favourite with families, Jack and the Beanstalk sees Jack fall in love with Princess Jilliana, but she is kidnapped by the evil wizard Fleshcreep. With the help of Fairy Moonflower, his brother Silly Simon and his mother Dame Trott, Jack must climb a giant beanstalk, storm a castle in the clouds and defeat an angry giant if he is to win the heart of the princess and bring back prosperity to his home town.

Casting this year sees panto-favourite Neil Armstrong reprise his role as the evil baddie, sure to attract plenty of boos and hisses from the audience. Neil has 30 years of panto experience under his belt and is now regarded as the resident villain of Gala Theatre’s pantos.

Neil’s fellow writer and director for the panto, Paul Hartley, treads the boards again alongside his co-star, this year as Silly Simon. Paul has been acting, directing, performing and presenting in some way, shape or form since 1993 when he became a Pontins Bluecoat at their flagship holiday Centre in Blackpool. Since training professionally he has worked across the world, writing, directing and performing.

Neil said “The chance to act, write and direct the Gala Theatre Panto is a dream job for me. Paul and I are good friends and sitting together coming up with all of this magical nonsense is a hoot.”

Gateshead lad Jamie Brown takes the title role of Jack, hot off the heels of his role this summer in the Gala’s own production of The Fighting Bradfords. Jamie has appeared in a wide variety of roles – ranging from Hamlet right through to Scooby-Doo and earlier this year, was awarded ‘erforming Artist of the Year’ at The Journal Culture Awards 2016 for his performances as Harry Clasper (Hadaway Harry, Wisecrack/ION Productions) and John Simpson Kirkpatrick (The Man and The Donkey, Customs House).

Fairy Moonflower is played by Sally Collett, whose broad theatre experience extends from numerous acting roles to assistant directing roles, including work with Gala Theatre Stage School. Sarah also starred as the Fairy Godmother in Gala’s panto Cinderella last year.

It wouldn’t be panto without a glamorous Dame and Dame Trott is played by Paul Dunn, who is delighted to be returning to the Gala this year, after playing ugly sister Sweaty in last year’s Cinderella. Since moving back to his native North-East 4 years ago, after living and working for the best part of 20 years in and around London, Paul has become a familiar face in the region, appearing in productions from sketch comedy to Shakespeare.

Making her Gala Theatre debut, Sarah Boulter is cast as the beautiful Princess Jilliana. Sarah’s theatre credits include; The Dolly Mixtures (Customs House), Catherine Cookson’s The Cinder Path (Ion Productions) and Capital Schmities (Live Theatre) among many others.

Durham County Council’s portfolio holder for Economic Regeneration and Culture, Cllr Neil Foster, said: “The Gala Theatre panto is a real highlight of the festive calendar for so many people across County Durham and this year’s fast-selling tickets are testimony to the fact that people love the show and are excited to get their Christmas treat booked early.

“It’s wonderful that both the cast and creative team are all from the North East and we are proud of the fact that our panto is a real celebration of local talent and local humour and we hope that our audiences this year will be truly entertained by this sparkling production of festive fun.”

Jack and the Beanstalk runs from Thursday 24 November 2016 to Saturday 7 January 2017 with lots of matinee and evening performances to choose from. There are special deals for families and a selection of cheaper tickets for preview and bargain shows.

Tickets priced from just £6 can be purchased from the Gala Box Office in person, by calling 03000 266 600, or online at

By Emily