Rehearsals are well underway for this year’s pantomime at the Gala Theatre – the swashbuckling tale of Robinson Crusoe.

Writer-directors Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley, who also star in the show, have teamed up with fellow cast members to make sure they are pitch-perfect for the Christmas extravaganza.

Armstrong and Hartley’s partnership promises to provide another huge-hit, following on from last year’s Jack and the Beanstalk which saw over 33,000 people flock to 69 performances across the festive period.

“It’s great to have all of the cast together to get started on this year’s show which is already selling-out fast,” said Neil, who plays baddie Captain Horatio Blackheart.

“Rehearsals are going well so far, the set looks amazing and we have a wonderful special effects team working alongside us.

“Paul and I loved the idea of writing a piratical adventure this year so both thought Robinson Crusoe was a good bet – so all aboard and bring on the pirates!”

Joining Neil and Paul is Gateshead-born Jamie Brown who again plays the title role after last year’s star turn in Jack and the Beanstalk.

He will be joined on his quest to find the fabled Pearl of Wisdom by his brother Billy Bob, played by Paul, his mother Dame Connie Crusoe (Paul Dunn) as well as the feisty Polly Perkins – played by Sunderland actress Lauren Waine.

Along the way they will meet goddess of the sea Aqua Marina, played by Jayne Mackenzie, as they try to reach safer shores.

Gala’s pantomime audiences have grown year on year and have gained a loyal following, this year’s show being the biggest yet

Actors will be joined on stage by performers from Gala Theatre Stage School, who are also in the process of getting ready for the 73-show run.

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.

Robin Byers, Durham County Council’s manager for the Gala Theatre, said: “Gala’s pantomime is something we are hugely proud of. This will be the tenth year of producing our own pantomime, and we think we’ve developed the show into one of the best in the region.

“Using actors and characters that our audiences love, the right amount of local flavour, and traditional stories told in a hilarious way, we are delighted that our audience return year after year in greater numbers. The feedback we get is overwhelmingly positive, and as long as people are enjoying what we do, we’ll keep on enjoying making the shows”.

Visit or call 03000 266 600 to book tickets for show, which runs from Thursday, 23 November to Saturday, 6 January.

Watch a sneak-preview of the cast in rehearsals at: