News Article

18th Nov 2019

2020 at Theatre by the Lake


Theatre by The Lake (TBTL) – Cumbria's only year-round producing theatre – is delighted to announce its eagerly anticipated 2020 season, the first under the leadership of new Artistic Director, Liz Stevenson. The year includes five World Premieres, a commitment to new writing and new collaborations with the nation's leading rural touring company, Pentabus, as well as a three week run of Emma Rice and Wise Children's lauded musical Malory Towers. The ambitious programme aims to develop TBTL's reputation for excellence, working with the nation's most exciting artists, celebrating new stories relevant to issues at the heart of its community, and creating exciting, dynamic and outward-looking work through new collaborations and partnerships.

Community is very much at the heart of Stevenson's first season, kicking off in March in the Studio with the World Premiere of One Side Lies the Sea, a co-production with Pentabus and directed by their Artistic Director Sophie Motley. A collaboration between its creators and rural coastal communities in North West Cumbria, Cornwall and the East Riding of Yorkshire, the show weaves a musical journey through the extraordinary communities that inhabit the coastline, telling their stories, hopes and dreams along the way. In Cumbria, one of the stories comes from The Solway's very own ancient Viking tradition of Haaf net fishing. The show will open at TBTL before embarking on a national rural tour which takes in Cumbrian village halls and community centres.

Over in the Main House this Spring, TBTL is thrilled to announce a remount of Emma Rice and Wise Children's much lauded musical take on Enid Blyton's classic story, Malory Towers, in another collaboration with West End and Broadway Producer David Pugh who co-produced the national tour of Educating Rita with the theatre earlier this year. Malory Towers will open at Keswick before embarking on a national tour. It garnered phenomenal reviews earlier this year with Rice commenting "Malory Towers is such a special show! It created so much joy and excitement this summer that it only seemed fair to share the fun! We are delighted to be re-mounting the show next year at the beautiful Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. We will then take Malory Towers on tour to lucky audiences up and down the country. I cannot wait to experience the beauty and inspiration of Keswick and know that my Malory Towers gang will enjoy the adventure enormously. Keswick, here we come!” Just last month Rice was awarded the outstanding contribution to British theatre accolade at the UK Theatre Awards.

David Pugh said: "Last year producing the enormously successful production of Willy Russell's Educating Rita with Theatre by the Lake meant that I just had to premier this new musical at this same beautiful theatre prior to bringing it to London's glittering West End.”

The theatre's much praised rep Summer Season will feature a company of eleven actors who will perform across six plays in two separate auditoria. The Main House season opens with sixties classic Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti (translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans) in a hilarious production by acclaimed director Nick Bagnall. This is followed by a spine-chilling revival of Patrick Hamilton's Rope, directed by Artistic Director Liz Stevenson. This noir thriller was made famous by Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film and purported to be based on a real-life case. This will be Liz's first show in the Main House since her hugely successful productions of The Secret Garden and Handbagged (2017).

Completing the Summer Season line-up in the Main House will be a World Premiere of The Climbers by Carmen Nasr and directed by Guy Jones (Literary Associate at The Orange Tree Theatre). A British-Lebanese writer and winner of Channel 4 Playwrights' scheme, Carmen has been a member of the Orange Tree's talent development programme, the Writers Collective, the Royal Court's Playwriting group and is playwright in residence at the Finborough Theatre. The play is a mesmerising exploration of our fascination with the mountains, the drive to conquer and the agony of life or death decisions, fittingly premiering in what is often credited as the adventure capital of England and reputed birthplace of the British rock climbing movement.

Launching the theatre's Studio season is a World Premiere production of Kieran Knowles' beautiful play Wilt. Another show resonant with Keswick's rural location within a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the play is set in a park ranger's office and looks into the pressure on the public sector, the nature of change and the decline of accessible green spaces. The play was long listed for the Bruntwood Prize earlier this year and will be directed by Stevenson – her first show as Artistic Director.

This season of firsts continues with Holly Race Roughan directing the World Premiere of These Walls by Laura Lomas. Originally commissioned and developed by Clean Break, the story follows two women who share a prison cell, one of whom is expecting a child. A raw, poignant exploration of freedom, friendship, loss and motherhood, directed by Headlong's Associate Artistic Director.

The Studio season concludes with another World Premiere of Drown Your Empty Selves by award-winning playwright, Joseph Wilde. Jack is immortal. Every hundred years he staggers back to the same pub in the hope of seeing the only person in the world who might know him: Rose. Wilde's playful and irreverent piece is a beautifully drawn eulogy, charting the decline of the British pub and will be directed by Kash Arshad who recently directed TBTL's summer show Guards at the Taj, as well as the recent smash-hit Freedom Studios' production of Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile. Joseph's 2013 breakout play Cuddles is currently in development for the big screen with Nicole Kidman's Blossom Films.

At the close of the year, families will be enthralled in the Main House at Christmas with a new production of The Borrowers by Mary Norton, adapted for the stage by Theresa Heskins (presented with the permission of the deFaria Company). It promises to fizz with acrobatic feats, original music and to turn the stage into a giant adventure playground.

Of her inaugural theatre programme for Theatre by the Lake 2020, Artistic Director Liz Stevenson, said: "I'm delighted to announce our 2020 artistic programme, demonstrating our commitment to new writing and bringing together some of the country's most exciting artists and companies to make ambitious world-class theatre here in Keswick. We are producing world premieres across our two spaces, as well as making fresh new productions of some brilliant 20th century plays. This season has been curated very much with our community in mind and we hope this diverse range of stories will entertain, thrill and provoke. It marks the beginning of our commitment to making theatre with, for and about our local communities, and we'll be providing more opportunities for people across Cumbria to engage with us.”

Tickets are currently on sale to Friends and go on general sale from 27 November.

Full creative and cast line ups to be announced in due course.

For PR Enquiries, press tickets, interviews and images – please contact: Rachel Swift, Head of Communications on 017687 81107 or


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