Sunset on Tantobie, written by Gary Kitching and directed by Jake Murray, is a 40-minute, heartwarming audio tale about family reuniting, with a nod to Dominic Cummings’ laughable defence of his trip to Barnard Castle.
Commissioned by Lizzie Glazier as a way of inspiring and celebrating County Durham, it’s a hopeful little gem which gently reminds us that there are better times ahead.
The story, performed by a mixture of professional and community actors, also features music from local community choirs. Robert (Micky Cochrane) is hoping to hitch his way home, but he’s not sure until he gets there if he can still call it home. He’s picked up on the A6 by Mr Farmer (Steve Byron) who is happy to drop him in Tantobie after a quick stop in Barnard. Susie (Sarah Boulter) is back from an exhausting night shift at the local hospital on a significant night when time has run out on a promise to her late father. It’s funny how, in these dark moments, something becomes a sign or a surprise; that never-too-late occurrence we love to experience, especially around this time of year.
This isn’t a sickly seasonal tale. Instead, it holds a theatrical light throughout. Two narrators and an out of sync chorus fight over the best way to tell us that Durham is more than coal mines and Prince Bishops, while the characters obliviously bumble blindly through their respective journeys. Jasmine’s (Cristina Barreiro) eye examination of Mr Farmer is particularly fun as she checks his eyesight and firmly explains that there isn’t any fog, she isn’t holding any fingers up, and he won’t be driving again.
Kitching, Murray and the Gala theatre have given us an audio piece that you can easily imagine onstage and being collectively enjoyed. In addition, by writing about Robert’s experience of being in the army before finally plucking up the courage to return home, Kitching creates an analogy for what many of us are going through right now. Experiencing our own fear and sadness should prompt us to fight back and take care of each other.
Glazier wanted to present a story at a time when the Gala would usually be staging a production which says that our towns are the sum of their people. Sunset On Tantobie reminds us that love and shelter aren’t always found somewhere other than where you’re from, that lots of people from Crook have decent jobs, and that Barnard has an optician.
Available for the foreseeable future on The Gala Theatre’s website.