KEEP SMILING THROUGH
by Lisa Evans.
Theatre By The Lake Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 11 November 2011.
Audio-described 28 Sept 2pm.
Captioned 7 Sept 2pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 August.
At its best a strong evocation of life on the Lake District home front.
I wouldn’t exactly recommend anyone to row over Derwentwater to catch Lisa Evans’ new play, but nor would I suggest they walk past the Theatre By The Lake without calling in to see it. It may not blaze any new theatrical trail but it’s a solidly-constructed drama with honest, dependable characters and tells a heart-warming story with integrity.
There may not be much surprising about the women living in wartime Keswick. But Evans tweaks expectations; relationships have an individuality, the potential wartime romance takes a surprise turn (perhaps rather too conveniently) and a night caller from the RAF doesn’t bear the expected message about a husband.
Nor is southern land-girl Jean merely the posh outsider in the north, while Evans deals interestingly with the hostility to a local German woman, and her own relationship to the Nazis. The oscillation of settings between a recognisably municipal hall and a home backed by the town’s iconic moot-hall exterior gives a sense of the wartime small-town community.
Between scenes, songs from wartime Britain assert the period, though they sit uncomfortably with the unfolding reality of the women’s lives. Yet, with Evans’ welcome touches of humour amid the personal dramas, there’s quite enough to hold audience interest.
Sometimes, though, with effort; the returning service husband disrupts the home with an anger that’s later explained, but never properly worked through in the action. Generally the men seem fixed in roles set by the playwright – the other males are a dashing young doctor who finally goes off on a plot swerve that doesn’t clearly reflect the way he’s been seen and a local comic yokel. Kate Layden’s Gran also has little to do much of the time.
But the play’s interest centres on the younger women, whose independent dramatic lives all ring true. And Ian Forrest’s production matches the writing with fine individual performances from Heather Saunders and Polly Lister, who in particular mixes bright life with a sense of deep human concern, while Olivia Mace, Heather Phoenix and Fiona Drummond breathe full humanity into their characters, ensuring the play’s heart has a strong beat.
Perce: Matt Addis.
Rob: Benjamin Askew.
Hilda: Fiona Drummond.
Alec: Ben Ingles.
Gran: Kate Layden.
Peg: Polly Lister.
Jean: Olivia Mace.
Leonore: Heather Phoenix.
Maggie: Heather Saunders.
Children: Abigail Metcalfe, Leah Montgomery, Holly Page, Bryony Sleath, Benjamin Vaillant, Holly Young, Hannah Elsender, Tobin Hart, Ella Hopkinson, Amy Langcake, Katie Oswald, Henry Marshall..
Director: Ian Forrest.
Designer: Martin Johns.
Lighting: Nick Beadle.
Sound: Andrew J Lindsay.
Musical Arranger/Director: Richard Atkinson.
Movement: Lorelei Lynn.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Fight director: Peter McQueen.
Assistant director: Jez Pike.
Assistant musical director: Kieran Buckeridge.