Saturday, 6 August 2011

Something to Smile About

Keep Smiling Through at Keswick Theatre.

THERE are plenty of laughs but more than a few tears in the World War II drama, Keep Smiling Through now showing at Keswick Theatre.

The play was written by the theatre's Associate Writer Lisa Evans and is receiving its premier in the town where the drama is based.

Lisa drew on the wartime experiences of children evacuated to Keswick and the families that cared for them for her script. This 'invasion' of evacuees, army girls and assorted folk brings more than its fair share of tension in a community already under pressure.

But interspersed with the fears for men fighting abroad, attacks by German airplanes and coping with rationing are layers of warm nostalgia - not least through the many wartime songs performed by the accomplished cast. Lisa brings out the bitter-sweet moments from the dark days of war when everyone pulled together to defeat a common enemy.

Maggie (Heather Saunders) and Peg (Polly Lister) are the two women at the centre of this maelstrom. While Heather brings a vulnerability to her role, its balanced by the bravado and humour brought out by Polly's portrayal of Peg. 

Evacuee Hilda (Fiona Drummond) is the 'cuckoo in the nest' and she gives a powerful performance as the unwanted child who people eventually realise is the future they are all fighting for.

But no one is quite who they seem in this drama which has more than a few twists and turns. German national Leonore (Heather Phoenix) is as much a victim of the war as everyone else but is caught up with the hatred towards all that Germany has come to stand for. 'Hero' Rob (Benjamin Askew) reveals his vulnerabilities as a frightened young man called on to do his duty for King and country, finally snapping under the pressure. Only popular doctor Alec (Ben Ingles) appears to be the calming influence in this storm - but even he has his surprises.

Director Ian Forrest ensures a fast-moving and slick production keeps the focus on the interplay between characters rather than allowing it to wallow too much in nostalgia. 

But there's nothing wrong in the occasional wallow and the end of the show allows the audience to let their emotions loose. Tears, laughter and plenty to talk about - this is theatre at its best.

Keep Smiling Through runs until Friday, November 11.Box office: 017687 74411 or visit