Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 11.32.33Shakespeare for youngsters and a mystical retelling of Snow White are among the highlights of a children’s theatre festival.

The TakeOff Festival returns to Durham next month, with an exciting programme of music and theatre for younger audiences.

Produced by Theatre Hullabaloo and supported by Durham County Council, the festival also includes workshops, an art installation and a family fun day at venues across the city.

Gala Theatre will be hosting a number of shows including Pocket Merchant (Thursday, 22 October), a gripping, hour-long version of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

An all-male cast from Propeller theatre company bring the Bard’s text to life in an invigorating, engaging and often funny production.

Although classed as a comedy, The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s darker plays, seen as an uncompromising tale of greed and revenge. When Bassanio falls in love with the wealthy Portia, he makes a bargain with a ruthless moneylender.

As time runs out to untangle this trap of his own making, Bassanio is faced with the threat of having to pay back the moneylender with a pound of flesh.

Award-winning dance company balletLORENT’s family-friendly adaptation of Snow White (Wednesday, 21 October), meanwhile, is based on Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s retelling of the classic fairytale.

Told through dance, the production reimagines this much-loved story of a mother’s poisonous jealousy with magical mirrors, mysterious miners and a young woman with beauty as pure as feathered snow.

The show is the second in balletLORENT’s planned trilogy of Brothers Grimm fairytales, following the highly successful Rapunzel.

Other highlights include Bear and Butterfly (Wednesday, 21 October), a story of love, loss and friendship told through puppetry and live music, and the beautifully poetic Tree (Thursday, 22 to Saturday, 24 October), about a man who is hungry but has to wait until the peach tree he has planted has grown through the seasons.

A Mano (Friday, 23 to Saturday, 24 October) is a touching and life-affirming story told in clay while The Falcon’s Malteser (Saturday, 24 October) is a hilarious slapstick comedy, following the adventures of a hopelessly inept private detective.

Gala will also host Welcome to Octoville, an interactive art installation partly constructed from discarded objects.

Octoville is populated by unusual characters, surreal structures and eccentric machinery. Visitors are encouraged to get involved by having a conversation with puppet mayor Harold Gobsworth, consider why Granny Fitch lives in a tree and work out why there are pterodactyls everywhere.

Jo Cundall, Durham County Council’s arts programme manager, said: “We’re always extremely proud to support TakeOff festival.

“Year-on-year, the events prove to be a fantastic way of getting youngsters interested in theatre and the performing arts and I’m sure the performances planned for this year will continue to foster a love of theatre in the next generation of audiences.”

For more details of the full TakeOff Festival programme, visit