A new interactive play staged at a Durham venue will help theatregoers get a feel for what life was like during the Somme, the First World War battle that was one of the bloodiest in human history.

1916: No Turning Back will run at the Gala Theatre from Thursday 21st July till Sunday 28th August. Described as a “truly immersive live experience” and “a fascinating insight into the experiences of those who went to war”, the play uses actors, special effects and different sets to recreate the sounds, sights and smells endured by soldiers in World War I.

In a ‘walkthrough’-type experience, theatregoers will accompany a young recruit, beginning with the moment he volunteers, along with all his friends, to fight for King and Country.

In the next part of the play, the recruit goes through training and is equipped for life at the front.

1916 No turning BackHe then finds himself in a trench, where – along with the audience – he experiences life on the front line, coping with difficult conditions and the constant threat of enemy attacks, but also being bolstered by the comradeship of his fellow troops. The audience will hear the sound of bombs, smell sulphurous smoke and feel the claustrophobia of sitting in a cramped trench in the dark lit only by a lamp.

They will have to dive for cover into a bunker before experiencing the final push ‘over the top’, surrounded by images of brave men facing up to that challenge. They will then see the recruit returning home a changed person.

The Somme was fought by the British and French armies against the German Empire. It was the First World War’s biggest battle on the Western Front. It lasted for almost five months and resulted in over a million men being killed or injured.

This is the first time that a play of this type has been put on at the Gala. It is being staged as part of a number of events being put on in Durham to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Somme. Tickets for 1916: No Turning Back cost £7.50 (£6.50 concessions). They can be bought at the Gala Theatre’s website or from its box office on 03000 266 600.

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