North east stars present a northern classic at Gala Theatre

Left to right: Louis Roberts, Stewart Howson and Alice Byrne

A classic novel, centred around a north east community, comes to Durham’s Gala Theatre next month.

The Stars Look Down, by A. J. Cronin, is an uplifting family saga chronicling life in a coal mining community. The classic story has been adapted several times for film and television, and even inspired the creators of Billy Elliot, with the opening song of Billy Elliot The Musical, The Stars Look Down, paying homage to the book.

Now, a theatre production will breathe new life into the timeless tale, when it takes to the stage in Durham on Thursday 5 September.

Beautifully written, and filled with relatable characters, this moving story follows the life of a miner’s son and his fight to gain decent wages and conditions for his family and community.

Davie Fenwick leaves his mining village on a university scholarship, intent on returning to better support the miners against the owners. But he falls in love with Jenny who convinces him to marry her and return home as a schoolteacher before finishing his degree.

Davie finds he is ill-at-ease in his role, the more so when he realises Jenny still loves her former boyfriend. When he finds that his father and the other miners are going to have to continue working on a possibly deadly coal seam he decides to act.

Beginning before World War I and extending into the 1930s, audiences will share in Davie’s experiences of love, death, war and class, in this touching production.

Robin Byers, manager of Gala Theatre, said: “The Stars Look Down is an amazing and poignant study of people and principles in a north eastern mining community, so it’s fitting that this production is a truly northern affair.

“Tyneside’s Alex Ferguson has adapted the novel, it has been produced for the stage by the Northumberland Theatre Company and it boasts a talented cast of local actors, including Hartlepool’s Louis Roberts, who we’re delighted to welcome back to Gala’s stage after his starring role in our in-house production of Teechers earlier this year.”

Gillian Hambleton, artistic director, said: “This adaptation transfers the original three books of the novel into one theatrical production, covering over 20 years. This ultimately uplifting family saga, tells of two young pitmen: one a man of principle, striving to better himself, fighting to improve wages and conditions for the men, the other an ambitious manipulator seeking only personal wealth and power.

“It is also the story of the people who surround them, mothers, fathers, wives, employers, colleagues, and the results of actions taken both deliberately and unwittingly. It is a story about tradition and change, about hope and despair and of dreams and harsh realities. A story for our times.”

The Stars Look Down is at Durham’s Gala Theatre at 7.30pm on Thursday 5 September.

Tickets, priced at £15, £13 concession and £12 for Gala Members, are available in person from the box office, online from www.galadurham.co.uk or by calling 03000 266 600.

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