Double act at Theatre by the Lake

Actor Jonny McPherson, who plays hero Richard Hannay, in rehearsals for The 39 Steps. Photo by Steve Barber. Actors Richard Earl (L) and Patrick Bridgman (R) play the policemen in rehearsals for The 39 Steps. Photo by Steve Barber. Actors Emily Tucker (L) and Cate Hamer (R) in rehearsals for Suddenly Last Summer. Photo by Steve Barber. The 39 Steps at Theatre by the Lake. Photo by Keith Pattison The 39 Steps at Theatre by the Lake. Photo by Keith Pattison The 39 Steps at Theatre by the Lake. Photo by Keith Pattison

Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake opens its 2015 Summer Season on Sat 23 May with two very different plays – a hilarious family-friendly comedy in the Main House and a classic drama by an American master in the Studio.

Two very different plays open in Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake Summer Season 2015


The centenary of the publication of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps is marked with a stage adaptation (titled The 39 Steps) that owes rather more to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film than to the novel.

Although 139 characters tell the play’s story of the thrilling pursuit of dashing hero Richard Hannay from London to misty Perthshire, the Main House stage will not be overcrowded: all parts are played by just four brilliantly versatile and quick-changing actors.

The play began life in the Yorkshire Dales in a version created by North Country Theatre and later adapted by Patrick Barlow. It went on to storm the West End (where it is still running) and Broadway. It’s packed with jokes, thrills, villains and beautiful women. Audiences will also be wonderstruck as they watch the Forth railway bridge being recreated on stage before their very eyes.

The 39 Steps is directed by Abigail Anderson, whose production of See How They Run! kept playgoers laughing through the summer of 2013. It’s the perfect show for all the family.


In the Studio, the remaining actors from the 12-strong summer company present a Tennessee Williams double bill, directed by Associate Director Mary Papadima. Mister Paradise – a short two-hander – precedes Suddenly Last Summer, Williams’ masterpiece from 1958.

Suddenly Last Summer, made into a famous film with Elizabeth Taylor in 1959, is set in the steaming heat of New Orleans after the death on a beach of young poet Sebastian Venable. Secrets and lies are revealed as his family argue over what happened and who is to blame. A terrifying truth eventually emerges at the climax of a work written with searing poetic intensity. It’s the perfect play for the Studio.

The 39 Steps and Suddenly Last Summer will be followed by the other four plays in the theatre’s Summer Season. Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh opens on Sat 6 June and the world première of The Lady of the Lake a week later. The play, a story of King Arthur in Cumbria, was commissioned by Theatre by the Lake from Benjamin Askew, a writer and actor who has appeared at the theatre several times.

The final two plays are Noël Coward’s Fallen Angels, which opens on Sat 25 July and Enlightenment by Shelagh Stephenson, which opens on Sat 1 August.

The shows change frequently on both stages and by August dedicated theatregoers can see all six within a week. A range of season tickets with big discounts is available for those people wanting to see more than one show.

Find out more or book your tickets here

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