Families can get into the Christmas spirit by downloading an exciting audio adventure, created by a County Durham theatre, this festive season.

Gala Theatre Durham’s production, The Christmas Tree, is an immersive digital experience for imaginations both young and old.

The story follows the exploits of the lovable Spruce, a small sapling with big ambitions.

In the rich Norwegian soil, up pushes a tiny green tree sprout. When the tiny tree catches sight of the bright lights from the distant town and the sparkle of a sleigh streaking overhead, the hero is sure he has found his true calling.

Audiences are invited to get to know a hilarious cast of characters with Spruce as he journeys to find a sense of purpose and the true spirit of Christmas in this charming tale.
The hilarious exploits of Spruce and his friends will be presented as a digital picture book, featuring original illustrations, alongside the audio version.

An extra magical music-scape will accompany the Gala production, which has been made possible by a range of talented local artists, including several who have worked on former Gala Christmas favourites.

North-east based writer Laura Lindow, whose writing credits include The Snow Queen at Northern Stage, wrote and directed the story, whilst award winning songwriter and composer, Katie Doherty, wrote the songs and music. The County Durham-based musician also composed the music for Gala’s 2019 Christmas production One More Sleep.

Paula Penman, who narrates the story, is also based in the North East and has worked as a performer, director and theatre maker, most notably for Northern Stage and Live Theatre. Durham-based artist James Ellis-Clark, who created the e-book’s beautiful illustrations, designed the artwork for numerous previous Gala Christmas shows, including One More Sleep, Once Upon a Christmas and Mrs Claus’ Kitchen.

Local dance and performing arts organisation, TIN Arts, also supported the production.

Robin Byers, Gala Theatre’s service manager, said: “Christmas is always an exciting and special time of year at Gala, and it is enormously important to us to still find ways to share that magic with families, even though we are unable to welcome audiences in person.

“The Christmas Tree has been designed for ages five and over but is the perfect opportunity for all ages to escape into a heart-lifting Christmas tale of friendship and discovery.

“We’re delighted to welcome back James and Katie, and to introduce Laura and Paula to the Gala Christmas team. Everyone involved has done an amazing job to spread some festive cheer in difficult circumstances and I hope everyone enjoys listening, laughing and dreaming along with Spruce and his friends.”

The Christmas Tree is available to listen to for free on the Gala website at www.galadurham.co.uk/the-christmas-tree

Copies of the story are also available on CD and can be ordered by phone to borrow from one of the following libraries:

• Barnard Castle Library
• Bishop Auckland Library
• Chester-le-Street Library
• Consett Library
• Crook Library
• Durham Clayport Library
• Newton Aycliffe Library
• Peterlee Library
• Seaham Library
• Shildon Library
• Spennymoor Library
• Stanley Library

Contact details and opening times for each library can be found at www.durham.gov.uk/pickandcollect

As well as enjoying the audio adventure, families can also catch up with some of their panto favourites despite Gala’s much-loved pantomime being unable to take place this year. The first episode of a specially filmed comedy thriller, Rottenchops Revenge will be released on Gala’s website at 6pm on Monday 14 December.