Review & Top Tips | Gala Theatre Durham Panto 2021

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Gala Theatre Durham Panto |  Overview & tickets

This year's Christmas Panto at Gala Theatre Durham is Robin Hood. It runs from 24 November - 9 January and tickets are available from £7 - £18 (£54 - £62 for a family ticket) which I would say is a mid-range price to pay for a panto. There have been no increase in ticket prices this year. 

The Gala Theatre Panto is one of our favourites and a visit always kicks off the festive season for us. The seats in the theatre are comfy, staff are friendly and it's lovely and relaxed. The show is usually very funny and a proper traditional panto with audience participation, gags just for the grown ups, mentions of local and recent events and lots of laughs for everyone. We love it! 

Here is what to expect from this year's panto: 

More fun and mayhem from your favourite panto family, as they all head for Sherburn Forest to tell the tale of heroic outlaw Robin Hood, his merry men (and women!), and his battles with the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

Created in the heart of Durham, Gala’s fabulous family panto has a magical mix of mayhem, live music, laughter and surprises. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Gala’s panto family. Tickets are already selling fast, so book early to avoid disappointment.

“it really does set the bar high for the rest of the region’s pantos. It’s going to take something very special to beat it” British Theatre Guide

“a stellar cast that produce the perfect panto year after year” Teesside Gazette

Neil Armstrong – The Sheriff of Nottingham
Paul Hartley – Will Scarlett
Paul Dunn – Dame Gertie Gossip
Jacob Anderton – Robin Hood
Millie Binks – Maid Marian
Lauren Waine – Dennis of Dawdon
Kylie Ann Ford – Friar Tuck

Marcus Brown – Musical Director
Amanda Woods – Choreographer
Emily Baxendale – Costume Designer

British Sign Language and captioned performances – 4 December at 1.00pm and 5 January at 6.00pm
Relaxed performance  – 6 January at 6.00pm

Gala Theatre Accessibility 

British Sign Language and Captioned Performances are available on 4 December at 1pm and 5 January at 6pm. A relaxed performance is available on 6 January at 6pm. Gala Theatre has a range of features and protocols in place to assist customers with disabilities including:
  • lifts and accessible toilets
  • wheelchair spaces in the theatre (advise staff on booking who will allocate accordingly)
  • personal assistant tickets available free of charge when required 
  • assistance dogs welcome
  • Sennheiser infrared amplification system in place - ask for a headset at the Box Office 

Gala Theatre Covid Protocols

You can read about the theatre's protocols here. Obviously, these may change in line with Government/industry guidelines or how things are looking in the region. From the video, I can see that there are protective screens in place for staff at the box office and hand sanitiser stations. 

At time of print, I cannot see anywhere that says you need to prove your COVID status to attend and it looks like seats are being filled without social distancing measures and mask wearing isn't compulsory. I will report back on the measures in place when we visit. 

Something that does stand out is their generous book with confidence guarantee. If you are unable to attend a performance for whatever reason, as long as you provide 24 hours notice, you can receive a refund or exchange to another event. Fantastic! 

Gala Theatre request you do not attend in the following circumstances: 

Please do not attend the venue if you…

  • believe you may be infected with Covid-19
  • have experienced symptoms in the last 14 days
  • have been in close proximity to anyone who has experienced symptoms in the last 14 days
  • arrived in the UK in the last 14 days and are not covered by exemption rules for self-isolation
  • have been instructed to self-isolate
After visiting, I can confirm that seating is not socially distanced, you do not need to prove your COVID status to attend and (non-acting) staff are behind screens or wearing face coverings. Payments are contactless where possible however physical tickets are still in use. 

Gala Theatre Durham Panto | Our 2021 Review 

I will be honest, I didn't know what to expect from a Panto in these current times but I am pleased to say, it was absolutely brilliant and a huge 10/10 from most of us (Jack is a little more reserved and gave it a 7/10). For us, it had every single element you want from a traditional panto and it was so good to be back. 

We have visited Gala Theatre a few times now and there's no bad seat here. Seats are spacious with more leg room than older theatres and there are booster seats available for kids to use too (ask an usher).

The ushers were quite strict about people scrolling their mobile phones during the performance and would ask them to stop (which I am personally pleased about).

This is a family show and there aren't really any scary parts with the exception of a couple of bits where some of the characters are threatened with near death in sword fight situations.

I would say in terms of panto though, it is one of the tamer ones and should be fine for little ones. There are a couple of bangs as some characters make a grand entrance but again, not too scary. 

As mentioned in the intro, every element of panto is captured here including lots of audience participation which I wasn't sure was going to be a thing or not.

My top tip is to not sit in the front row if you don't wish to get involved as you will get wet and you might get picked on too. I personally think the elements where the audience are involved are always some of the funniest and there were plenty of moments like this throughout. 

There is also a brilliant scene which is kind of like a reverse sweet throw out and gets everyone involved. I won't spoilt it for you. 

Plus of course, lots of booing, hissing, singing along and 'He's behind yous'. Audience participation aplenty. 

There is a live band and live music and Dee (who is now well into their own guitar lessons) was obsessed and mentioned that the live band really made the show and were so enthusiastic.

Harry and Dee spent the whole show bopping along in their seats which was brilliant to see and made me very happy. You know how teens can be a tough crowd! Special shout out to Josh in the band. 

The messy scene is back and this one is based around cooking a batch of pea soup plus of course there is the standard water fight. Lots of laughs guaranteed around these scenes. 

I have personally not watched Robin Hood as a panto before and it was nice to watch something that was different to the regular stories that do the rounds. We like to play panto bingo at this time of year and try and guess the popular culture that will be mentioned in the jokes.

Well there were none here and there was ZERO mention of lockdowns / COVID / Dominic Cummings etc..... in the jokes which I was kind of surprised about. BUT I guess we are all sick to the back teeth of hearing this anyway and it was refreshing to see some comedy that didn't rely on all of these things. 

What you can expect is lots of local jokes based on Durham which were good. Poor Spennymoor though. 

Writers Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley (who also play the Sheriff of Nottingham and Will Scarlett) are a dream combo and it was brilliant to see them back on stage. Absolute panto legends and brilliant at working the crowd, going off script and trying to crack each other up.

These two by far stole the show and when I asked the family who everyone's favorite character was, we all answered these two. They don't take themselves too seriously at all which again, I think is one of the key elements that makes a good panto. 

Paul Dunn is back as Dame Gertie Gossip and again, an absolute natural at this role and a pleasure to watch. Lots of laughs and outrageous costumes are guaranteed. Any men in the front row really need to watch out for this one. 

Actually, the whole cast were outstanding and provided so much comic relief from Friar Tuck performing a sermon to the crowd as he waits for his pint of Carling to be poured to Dennis who is fond of catching some rays and the Monks of Murton who are like some kind of gang not to be messed with and so funny with lots of clever one liners.

We especially loved their encounter with The Sheriff of Nottingham as he was left stranded on the A167 near Darlo. 

There aren't any elaborate sets or special effects in this panto and it relies more on the script but this 100% works. Beautiful singing is courtesy of Millie Binks as Maid Marion and the dancers do a brilliant job too. 

Robin Hood isn't too 'Christmassy' with the only mention of Christmas being at the end when the cast wished us a Merry Christmas and I would say it would be perfectly fine to visit after Christmas before their run ends on 9 January or if you are looking for an evening out which isn't Christmassy.

Below is the best choice of dates. 

It has been two years since our last panto visit and a lot has changed in that time. I was kind of worried that the kids might just sit there are roll their eyes these days but the opposite happened. Watching this show genuinely made them happy and they really enjoyed the night.

My three are privileged and do get to see a lot of pantos / theatre thanks to my job so for them to leave and say it was amazing and give it a 10/10 is really does speak volumes. 

Steve and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves too. There are a couple of innuendos but nothing too extreme and we had a fantastic evening with the kids. Well done to the whole team for pulling it out of the bag! 

There were no bag searches as we entered the building and prices for drinks and snacks at the bar were pretty reasonable (see below). 

Gala Theatre Durham Panto | Where to park

I'm not overly familiar with Durham and when we do visit, we usually use the park and ride but this closes at 7pm so isn't recommended for evening performances. Alternatively, we've often caught the train into Durham and the station isn't too far to walk from the theatre.

I asked my friend and local Durham-girl Katie Jane for city centre parking recommendations and Katie recommended Walkergate Car Park which is right by the theatre. There are 500 spaces here and parking is £3 for 2-4 hours or £5 for 4-6 hours.

Gala Theatre Durham Panto | Where to eat

If you're heading to a matinee performance, there's a cafe inside of the theatre serving light bites, snacks and sandwiches from 10am-3pm Monday-Friday and 10am-5pm Saturday.

I am pleased to see that the cafe is part of the National Refill Scheme and will refill your water bottle free of charge during cafe opening hours.

In the Walkergate complex (which is right next to the Gala Theatre), you'll find lots of family-friendly restaurants such as Chiquito, Nandos and ASK. Personally, I'd prefer to walk the 5 minutes into town and check out Fat Hippo Durham or Zapatistas - both North East chains who serve fab kids meals and are super tasty.

Turtle Bay has just opened on the Riverwalk too and they are usually a good shout. 

Review & Top Tips | Gala Theatre Durham Panto - pre-theatre dining at Fat Hippo Durham
Fat Hippo Durham

It's an easy two-minute walk into town from the Gala Theatre and it's worth it to have a quick look at the Christmas lights before the show and maybe pop into a coffee shop for a hot chocolate if you have time. We stopped by Treats which was really lovely.

Review & Top Tips | Gala Theatre Durham Panto 2018 | Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Hot Chocolate from Treats, Durham 
Zapatisa Durham

Here is a look at the drinks prices at Gala Theatre for 2021: 

Aladdin - 2019 Panto Review

Merchandise & Bar Prices

One reason I absolutely love the Gala Theatre is that they don't try and rip their customers off. You won't find any bag searches with sweets being confiscated and you are welcome to take your own inside the theatre which is refreshing.

Bar prices are reasonable (pop £2, popcorn £2.50, coffee £2) and merchandise is really well priced for a theatre with flashy toys being a fraction of what they were at the arena earlier in the week. 

Gala Theatre Seating 

The staff are lush at the Gala Theatre, they will help you find your seat and there is lots of room when compared with older theatres. Kids can help themselves to a booster seat near the auditorium entrance. The atmosphere is super relaxed here - kids shout and sing along and it is definitely a panto which doesn't take itself too seriously.

Aladdin Review (from 2019) 

Ah we loved the Gala's twist on Aladdin and it was the perfect way to kick off panto season for us. Friday night was just the second showing of the performance and I would say it ran around 20 minutes over. Generally, things do quicken up as they get more in the flow of things.

The Gala Theatre Panto never takes itself too seriously and is pretty relaxed - Aladdin was no exception. The cast had a brilliant rapport with the kids and audience (hello Kyle!) and it is definitely a panto where the audience is very much part of the show. At one point the whole cast was climbing through the stalls.

Credit - Gala Durham

Aladdin is a brilliant all-rounder and had every aspect you expect from a proper Northern panto - a live band, local jokes, stunning vocals from Eleanor Chaganis as Princess Jasmine and David Hosie as Aladdin and an eclectic set of costumes which ranged from a Mariachi Band to Egyptian Mummies.

We laughed out loud and laughed hard on numerous occasions. Special mentions have to go to Tiddles the Torturing Cat (and Turbo Tiddles), the petulant Camel and the kids who played the mummies, they were excellent - give these kids a show of their own!

Credit - Gala Durham

Neil Armstrong is a brilliant baddie and plays Abanazar with ease - it is like he was born to play the role. I caught myself booing along with the kids on more than one occasion. Loved the addition of the War of the Worlds music. Nice touch and a change from the usual panto medleys.

Paul Hartley as Wishy-Washy and  Paul Dunn as Widow Twanky are just the perfect comedy double act - look out for the quicksand sketch. Comedy gold!

Oh I have to mention the Genie too - loved how she floated about the stage and her cheeky attitude. She was a real favourite with the kids. There is a touch of magic in Aladdin too and the children in the audience were super wowed as Aladdin magically flew above our heads.

Credit - Gala Theatre

Aladdin is a perfect panto for all ages - there was a grannie two rows in front of us crying with laughter and equally, the toddlers in the audience had a brilliant time. There are a couple of scary scenes where Ebenazar has a gun and another where he almost chops Aladdin's head off but nothing too menacing.

Aladdin feels like a Panto which offers superb value for money - tickets are available from £7. For a show of this quality, this feels like a steal.

I have been trying to think of a negative but I honestly can't think of one - perhaps that there isn't a traditional messy scene but this really is clutching at straws. If you have tickets, rest assured, you will be in for a brilliant few hours of pure entertainment.


1 comment

  1. Thanks for the great review Sam. We have gone to the Durham panto for the last 5 years. We always know that it's going to be a great show and it's reasonably priced too. Can't wait to go at the end od December. Xxx


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