• Durham OnAir

Gala Theatre serves up heart-warming local drama

Audiences at Gala Durham theatre can look forward to a generous portion of local humour and community spirit at the end of this month, with a new play, inspired by and set in the north east.

There’ll be laughter, tears, and mushy peas on offer when the Durham County Council-run venue stages Janet Plater's Haddock and Chips, on Friday 29 October.

Set in a north east chippie, the uplifting play deals with a range of small-scale neighbourhood dramas, including an ill-fated relationship, a mysterious new arrival, and a missing child.

Join shop owner Bob, assistant Brenda and a host of colourful lads and lasses, as the town’s residents turn amateur detective, piecing together the events of the evening to help find a lost little girl.

Writer, Janet, said: “The original idea for Haddock and Chips came years ago when I was worrying about a child, as all parents do. I mentioned to a friend I had no extended family nearby and they countered ‘we’re all family nearby.’ A Geordie thing perhaps but particularly resonant in current times. I’m interested in the idea that every person carries with them their history and view of themselves. In ordinary moments these collide with others and, on this night, in this place, a child is missing. How would people react to that?”

A small but talented cast of just two actors will play the range of characters who pass through the shop’s doors, in an evening of playful banter, lively drama and light-hearted comedy. Phillippa Wilson and Joe Caffrey will be familiar faces to audiences, and both have a wealth of experience in TV and theatre.

Phillippa, who has worked in the industry for more than twenty years, was part of the original cast for the hugely successful production The Pitmen Painters and stayed with the show when it transferred to Broadway. She has also worked extensively for Live Theatre, Northern Stage, Manhattan Theatre Club and National Theatre, and has made TV appearances in Where the Heart Is and Heartbeat.

Joe, who trained at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, has acted in TV shows including Vera, Holby City and Byker Grove, as well as films such as Victoria and Abdul, and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. His theatre credits include The Last Ship at Northern Stage, Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe, Cabaret, Billy Elliott the Musical, and The Pitmen Painters.

Director, Jake Murray, said: “I'm very excited to be working on Haddock and Chips. It’s a beautiful play, funny, thought-provoking, moving and inspiring at the same time. New writing is always a thrill to work on as you are breaking new ground, presenting something no-one has seen before. It’s a bonus when the writing is as good as this. It’s a real north eastern play, unique to this area. It has a big heart, a shrewd eye for human character and a real community spirit. I can't wait."

Written by the north east’s own Janet, and produced by CaroleW Productions, a local theatre company with a passion for providing ‘a good night out’, Haddock and Chips is a performance which celebrates the region’s sense of community and highlights the hope that can be found in humanity, even in the hardest of times.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, the council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “In what we hope is the wake of the covid pandemic, a funny, life-affirming drama such as Haddock and Chips is exactly what we need right now. Audiences will recognise themselves and people they know in the show’s characters, who will take them on an emotional and comical journey.

“The play also highlights what a source of inspiration our region can be to the arts, as well as the quality of creative talent it has nurtured. As a county bidding to become UK City of Culture 2025, we’re proud to be championing local writers, producers and actors.”

Tickets for Haddock and Chips, priced from £14 to £16, are available from Gala Durham, in person, over the phone on 03000 266 600 or online at www.galadurham.co.uk