A trio of talented north-east performers will be giving a traditional folktale a modern twist this Easter at Durham’s Gala Theatre.

Chicken Licken: A TaleJam will be a musical retelling of the popular children’s story. The play – suitable for all the family – will be staged at the Gala during the April school holidays.

Chicken Licken: A TaleJam will also be touring a number of schools, libraries, community centres and theatrical venues across the north east.

The performance will be based on the well-known folktale Chicken Licken, which has inspired two Disney productions. The play heading to the north east, however, will be an updated version that will feature ‘fake news’ as well as plenty of fun and feathers.

Chicken Licken: A TaleJam is written, narrated and directed by Ruth Mary Johnson. Ruth has been behind several popular children’s shows, including Izzy Gizmo: a Story Gig, Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo, Hey Presto, Man on the Moon and The Worst Princess.

Ruth has also recently directed Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale for young audiences for the National Theatre.  

Ruth said, “I’m so excited to be working with the Gala to create Chicken Licken: A TaleJam and cannot wait to meet our audiences on tour, particularly in my native north east, who will help us to ‘Tale Jam’ this feathery tale of fake news and fun.”

“A Tale Jam is a bit like a Story Gig and the show starts with a band about to play a gig until something unexpected happens. I have always been interested in how performers and audiences can share ownership of the story being told and our audiences will play a key role in deciding what happens.”

1 Ruth Mary Johnson
Ruth Mary Johnson

Calum Howard – a Newcastle-based actor, composer and musician – will be the show’s musical director, in addition to playing villain Foxy Loxy.

Calum has toured the country with a number of bands, played on live radio sessions on BBC6 Music, appeared on Later with Jools Holland and supported Placebo on their 20th anniversary UK tour. Calum also composes film and animation soundtracks, records and tours with electronica band Grey Tapes, and performs live cinema scores.

Calum has already acted in some of Ruth Mary Johnson’s productions such as Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo and Man on the Moon.

Calum said, “I am eggstatic to take on the role of musical director for Chicken Licken: A TaleJam and cannot wait to take this storytelling band on the road.”

The part of Chicken Licken will be played by Northumberland actor Liam Scarth. Liam has performed across the north east and beyond, appearing in productions such as Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Playing Up and The Climate Change Project.

Liam also enjoys creating work with young people in order to boost their confidence and creativity.

The show is designed by Anna Robinson, an up-and-coming north-east designer who has participated in some of Ruth’s youth projects.

The manager of Durham’s Gala Theatre, Robin Byers, said, “We’re working with three of the north east’s best performers and producers to bring this classic tale to life.”

“The whole family can join in the antics as our band tells the tale of a young chick who can’t decide what to do.”

Chicken Licken: A TaleJam will be staged at the Gala Theatre on Sunday 14th and Monday 15th April, at 2.00 pm and 4.00 pm on both days. The 4.00 pm Monday show will include a British Sign Language performance.

Songs from Chicken Licken – as well as “a little something extra” – can be downloaded after the show, so the family fun can continue at home.

Tickets cost £7, £6 for concessions. You can book tickets by going to www.galadurham.co.uk, by telephoning 03000 266 600 or by visiting the Gala box office in person.

(The featured image shows a scene from Chicken Licken, with Calum Howard and Ruth Mary Johnson.)

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