Jason Donovan among the performers at Gala Theatre

An exciting line up of theatre, live music and a swashbuckling Christmas pantomime awaits audiences at Gala Theatre over the coming months as the new autumn season is announced.

Highlights of a packed theatre schedule include acclaimed one-man show Wisdom of a Fool, a play celebrating the life of performer Norman Wisdom on Wednesday, 6 September.

Football fans will be entertained with a double bill of stories all about Sunderland AFC on Saturday, 9 September, starting with Cornered – a poignant play by Look North’s Jeff Brown which looks at what happened to 18-year-old Dave Corner after his ‘nightmare’ in the 1985 cup final at Wembley. The show will be followed by Wise Men Say, a bittersweet comedy marking one fan’s journey from his beloved Roker Park to the Stadium of Light.

September also sees London Classic Theatre Company bring its version of Noël Coward’s most popular comedy Private Lives to Gala, with a special early bird ticket offer. Tickets for opening night or the matinee cost just £10 when booked by Friday, 4 August.

October sees the return of TakeOff Festival – England’s largest festival of theatre for children and young people with shows for all the family.

The Durham City venue is also hosting plenty of musical performances this autumn, including an evening with four-time Brit Classical Award winner Russell Watson on Thursday, 14 September.

The tenor will be accompanied by a local guest choir and will perform songs from his new album as well as a selection of his most popular hits from throughout his career.

A boutique music festival is also lined up as part of this season’s schedule, with the Launderette Sessions featuring legendary band The Blockheads as well as Sunderland’s own Martin Longstaff, playing under the name of The Lake Poets.

Songs from 1960s band The Small Faces will feature in All or Nothing: The Mod Musical, which runs from Monday, 25 to Tuesday 26 September while October will see a return of English Touring Opera with Handel’s Giulio Cesare Parts I and II in a double bill.

Audiences will be kept entertained with top comedians including Jason Byrne, Stewart Lee, Carl Hutchinson and Simon Amstell all set to perform across the season.

Author Kathy Lette will also visit Gala on Monday, 18 September with her new show Girls’ Night Out, while on Thursday, 12 October actor and popstar Jason Donovan looks back at his life and career as his 50th birthday looms.

Cricket fans won’t want to miss a special talk from unique commentator Henry Blofeld, who recently announced his retirement from Test Match Special after 45 years. He will be joined by England’s greatest ever spin bowler Graeme Swann as the pair share their favourite cricketing stories on Monday, 2 October.

One of the highlights of the season is set to be this year’s family pantomime Robinson Crusoe, written and directed by Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley.

Following on from last year’s success with Jack and the Beanstalk, this year’s show sees Robinson Crusoe and his friends on a quest to find adventures, romance and the fabled Pearl of Wisdom.

The show runs from Thursday, 23 November to Saturday, 6 January with family tickets also available. We also have accessible performances scheduled; a relaxed performance for people with autism and their families on Thursday, 14 December and a BSL interpreted performance on Sunday, 10 December.

This year will see Gala’s brand new Christmas production Mrs Claus’ Kitchen – a magical show for the under 5s with original puppetry, music and live performance from Monday, 4 to Saturday, 30 December.

Robin Byers, Durham County Council’s service manager for The Gala Theatre, said: “Autumn is Gala’s busiest season, and as well as a jam-packed programme of our own, we are really proud to be paying host to key festivals including TakeOff.

“We’ve also had lots of fun creating our pantomime Robinson Crusoe, and we can’t wait for our audiences to see it.”

To view the full autumn programme and book tickets, visit Gala’s box office, call 03000 266 600 or go online at www.galadurham.co.uk