The most wincingly funny comedy of the last 50 years and the world première of a new play about King Arthur in Cumbria are on at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick this autumn.
Two more plays join Theatre by the Lake’s Summer Season
Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party, a sensational hit when first produced in London and later seen on television, arrived at the Main House stage on Saturday 6 June and runs until 6 November.
Audiences are invited to join aspirational Beverley and her husband Laurence as they entertain their neighbours. The drink flows, cheesy-pineapple nibbles are shared and Demis Roussos sings. But the night does not go well and Beverley and Laurence are soon at daggers drawn.
They squabble over the print she calls erotic and he says is pornographic. They argue over what kind of soirée they want: “Laurence,” says Beverley, “we’re not here to hold conversations, we are here to enjoy ourselves.”
“Abigail’s Party is a classic – one of the funniest plays of modern times,” said a Theatre by the Lake spokeswoman. “For some, it will be a glimpse into what life in the seventies was like. For those who were there at the time, it will be a vivid flashback – perhaps with a shudder – to times and fashions over which they have drawn a veil.”
THE LADY OF THE LAKE
The Lady of the Lake by Benjamin Askew, commissioned by Theatre by the Lake, is staged in the Studio until 6 November. It’s a startlingly original new play with a Cumbrian setting.
It tells of uncertain times as King Arthur, old and weary, retires to Carlisle, a city with more connections with the mythical king than any other. His decline results in a fierce tussle to fill a power vacuum. The result is a powerful political struggle with resonances for our times.
Benjamin Askew, an actor who has appeared in several Theatre by the Lake productions, has been obsessed with the stories of Arthur and his Round Table since he was a child. “My very first play was written when I was seven years old,” he said. “And its subject was Camelot.
“When it comes to the question, ‘Why write a play about King Arthur?’ many of my answers now are the same as they would have been then. I love these stories. They excite me. They confuse me. They fascinate and frustrate me because, no matter how often I might hear them or how many different versions I might read, there is always something new to discover.
“I first discovered Arthur’s links to Cumbria when I was working as an actor at Theatre by the Lake. The literary history is fascinating but what excited me more was that when I walked through Borrowdale and climbed Castle Crag the landscape itself seemed to retell the story.”
Both productions have been supported by generous theatre-loving donors, Abigail’s Party by Judith Johnstone, who supported Rogue Herries in the Main House in 2013, and The Lady of the Lake by Professor Bill Mapleson whose gift is in memory of his wife Doreen.
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