Pick of the Term

Which productions will you choose to watch?

“All the world’s a stage”

A city so small that it is affectionately dubbed “the bubble,” Durham surprises the newcomer with its vast abundance of theatrical offerings. Yes, if you don’t know it already, you will be sure to discover that Durham’s “theatre scene” is less a scene than an entire script, less a script than an entire collection; one term boasting as many dramatic works as constitute Shakespeare’s entire oeuvre . Yes, theatre at Durham is as impressive as – and certainly as diverse as – that which the big man’s Globe itself plays host to. Theatre in Durham is, in fact, a whole world of its own, in a class of its own. Not quite the bubble you might have thought then. What you’ll find is that in Durham – and across our neighbouring cities – Jacques’ sentiment rings quite true.

So, with this slightly convoluted cliché in mind, it can be very tricky to choose between the numerous plays on each week. Below is a selection of some of the finest, as chosen by Durham theatre enthusiasts (though it is not advised that you limit yourself to these few!)

If you find that you like the sound of the listings below, it is recommended that you become a member of Durham Student Theatre. Traditionally described as the umbrella organisation for all theatre companies at Durham University (and more recently, as the “mother” society), membership renders you a recipient of an email detailing all auditions/performances/workshops occurring that week and grants discounted access to each student show. Most importantly, perhaps, membership is a must if you wish to participate – backstage or onstage – in the shows themselves. Go to see them. Get involved. It’d be sheer folly not to.

Jessica Gordon, Student Theatre Manager and Student Music Co-Ordinator

Durham Student Theatre Picks

Productions at the university this term are as plentiful and varied as ever. Making the most of our World Heritage Sites, The Black Staircase – A Ghost Play will be performed in Durham Castle, weaving the tales of the castle’s characters from history. In the wake of the successes of other UNESCO World Heritage Site productions, the site-specific piece promises to be a unique and intriguing experience.

The freshers’ play is always an excellent opportunity to check out new talent at Durham. This year, the freshers have chosen Oh, What a Lovely War!, the World War One satirical musical. The huge number of characters in the production ensures that many freshers will be involved, and the classic wartime tunes combined with the abounding energy of the freshers’ first show promise to be a great time for all.

In other musicals news this term, DULOG’s Michelmas production is Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. DULOGS’s musical expertise is always exceptional, and in this comic opera of pirates, love and leap years, they are unlikely to disappoint.

If you’re in the mood for laugh-out-loud comedy this term, The Durham Revue’s Christmas Feast is bound to be a delectable yuletide treat. The Revue’s Christmas show is always exciting, as it is the time of year when new members and new sketches are unveiled to the world, and they are always injected with the freshness of novelty alongside classic Revue hilarity. The final DST show of the term, The Durham Revue’s Christmas Feast is not to be missed.

Julia Chapman, Drama Editor

The Best of the Rest

Theatrical offerings are thin on the ground at The Gala this term; their performing arts programme is oriented instead around comedy, with several installments of ‘The Comedy Store’ and the monthly ‘Funny Bones Comedy Club’ to keep Durhamites laughing throughout Michaelmas term. The Pitmen Poets’ performance on November 2nd will celebrate the region’s coalmining tradition through a mixture of songs, stories and archive footage, presented by a team of musicians from north eastern mining villages, and stands out on The Gala programme.

The Theatre Royal in Newcastle is only a short train ride away from Durham and offers a series of seasonal shows this term, with a performance of Dracula at Hallowe’en and some festive favourites towards the end of term: Northern Ballet’s Nutcracker is running between 15th and 19th November and a seasonal pantomime of Sleeping Beauty will provide festive family fun from 29th November. Opera North will also be performing Puccini’s heartbreaking operatic masterpiece Madama Butterfly on 9th and 12th November, for those who would prefer to watch a timeless and beautiful opera classic.

Also situated in the heart of Newscastle city centre, Northern Stage is offering some intriguing immersive theatre on 4th and 5th November with the innovative one-man show Going Dark. This imaginative performance follows the narrator of a city planetarium and promises to reawaken a sense of wonder in the cosmos for members of a society whose view of the night sky is often obscured by light pollution. Having recently championed the art of storytelling, Caribbean Spook Tales also stands out on the Northern Stage bill, offering audiences in the north east the perfect opportunity to engage with the tale-telling tradition of the West Indies. Performed on 26th October by the storytelling legends TUUP and Jan Blake, this show promises “disturbing, comedic and poignant tales” of “sorcery and shape-shifting” in the run up to Hallowe’en.

A little further afield, the award-winning Legally Blonde The Musical will be coming to the Sunderland Empire this December, with ‘Stars in Their Eyes’ presenter Matthew Kelly as Professor Callahan and ex-Atomic Kitten Liz McClarnon as Elle Woods’ friend Paulette. Winner of the Best Musical 2011 Olivier Award, amongst an array of other prizes, this show promises to be worth the trip to ‘the West End of the North East’.

Last but not least, Théâtre Sans Frontières, a theatre company that specialises in performing European plays in their original language, will tackle sensuous Spanish surrealism with Lorca’s Amor en el Jardín (‘Love in the Garden’) at the Arts Centre Washington. Performed in Spanish, this show combines theatre, poetry and live music, and promises to bring a colourful, flamenco-filled Mediterranean twist to the wintry north east on 10th November.

Helen Craven, Drama Editor

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