Durham panto cast announced

Peter Lathan

Durham’s Gala Theatre has announced casting for its 2017/18 panto, Robinson Crusoe.

For the third year, the panto, which runs from 23 November to 6 January, will be written and directed by Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley, who also appear in the show.

Gateshead actor Jamie Brown returns after Jack and the Beanstalk last year to play Robinson Crusoe and Hartley is his brother Billy Bob—and no doubt this Billy Bob will be as Silly a Billy as Silly Simon was last year.

Their mother, who this year is Dame Connie Crusoe, is again played by Paul Dunn in his third Gala panto; in 2015 he played one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella.

The Villain, as ever, is Armstrong as Captain Horatio Blackheart.

New to the cast this year are Jayne Mackenzie as the goddess of the sea, Aqua Marina, and Sunderland-born Lauren Waine as the feisty Polly Perkins.

“We loved the idea of writing a piratical adventure this year so we both thought Robinson Crusoe was a good bet,” said Armstrong.

“We've got mermaids, tropical parrots and hopefully a new twist on Man Friday—the set looks amazing and this year we have a wonderful special effects team working alongside us, so all aboard and bring on the pirates!”

“This is my 15th panto year at the Gala,” said Hartley, “and the last three have been the most fun. We've seen audience figures grow year on year and have gained a loyal following.

“This year’s show is the biggest we've attempted and we are thrilled to be heading out on the high seas.”

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

“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.”