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Keep Smiling Through review at Theatre by the Lake Keswick

This original work by the theatre’s associate writer Lisa Evans seems confused about what it is. It has some well performed songs, less well performed dance, but it is not a musical. It has touches of comedy, but the promised dramatic scenes develop too slowly. It is based on local tales of wartime evacuees to Keswick in 1940, but it isn’t an historical account. This confusion results in a less than confident world premiere performance in the main house.

The action takes place in various sites in Keswick, which means frequent scene changes. To distract us, director Ian Forrest has staged wartime song and dance routines during the inevitable delays. But this means the players deserting their characters, taking us back into the play proper once a scene change is complete.

The cast of nine works hard to keep interwoven tales moving, with regrettably little opportunity for character development. Matt Addis as local lad Perce and Olivia Mace as aristocratic land girl Jean handle their comic scenes well. As Maggie, Heather Saunders shows the confusion of a woman suddenly expected to shoulder domestic responsibilities with her man away at war, confusion shared by Benjamin Askew as the briefly returned husband. Other threads include an errant doctor (Ben Ingles), a pregnant wife determined to enjoy a last fling (Polly Lister), a child refugee unwilling to return home (Fiona Drummond) and a German refugee (Heather Phoenix). Experienced players all, but given too little to work with. And not a gas mask in sight.

Production Information

Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, July 30-November 11

Lisa Evans
Ian Forrest
Theatre by the Lake Productions
Cast includes
Matt Addis, Benjamin Askew, Ben Ingles, Polly Lister, Heather Phoenix, Heather Saunders
Running time
2hrs 40mins