Thursday, November 10, 2011

World première of 'Keep Smiling Through'

Advertising poster and ticket for 'Keep Smiling Through'
A musical stage show by Lisa Evans
Its world première was at Keswick, Cumbria
(Summer season 2011)

The world première of a play about rationing, refugees, evacuees - and 'Rodents'- in the Cumbrian town of Keswick was held at the Theatre by the Lake, Keswick in 2011. The press preview was on Friday 29 July 2011, with the public première the following evening. Normally, the summer season of plays at the theatre ends at the beginning of November. However, this play with wartime songs contained within the storyline, was extended by a week. Thus, the final performance of the play's first season took place on Friday 11 November 2011.

For additional information see 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

A matriarchal society

It is late 1940 and the location is the Cumbrian town of Keswick. Britain is at war with Germany. The Germans stand on the north coast of France looking across the Channel to a 'Britain at Bay'.

Keswick, in northern Lakeland, has many of its menfolk away in the Forces. But it is a 'reception area' for evacuees. Many people go away and others come in their place. It is a society on the move. To some extent Keswick has become a matriarchal society - or at least so some of the women would like to think.

Among the evacuees billeted in the midst of this newly evolved matriarchal society are schoolchildren from the North East. There is also the whole of a 'posh' Girls School from Sussex - Roedean - housed at the 'posh' Keswick Hotel and Shu-le-Crow House. There are also German refugees - one of them teaches German and music to the Roedean girls (known locally as 'Rodents'). There is a new, popular - and young - G.P. in town. Apparently he cannot join the Forces because of asthma.

But is this German teacher all that she seems to be? Why does she play the music of German composers on the piano? Is the new town doctor all that he seems to be? Why does he want to know what everyone thinks? What will the menfolk say when they come back home on leave?

This is the basic infrastructure of people and events in wartime Keswick upon which the fictional story of 'Keep Smiling Through' is based. In fact, many of the references in the play to people, places and events actually happened. While researching the background to the play, the writer and playwright Lisa Evans visited Keswick Museum to study the personal memoirs of the evacuated children and refugees deposited there as well as talking to local people, local and social historians as well as visiting the Imperial War Museum.

Music, singing and dancing remained an important part of life during the war years, and all these things were incorporated into the play. Joining the professional cast who played the principal characters in the play were a a small team of local schoolchildren.

During the 2011 season the play attracted almost a full audience each night. Its appeal was for all ages from primary school children to the wartime generation. Family life, music, song and dance appeals to all generations.

Friday, 11 November, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The original 2011 cast of 'Keep Smiling Through'

This was the 2011 cast of 'Keep Smiling Through' (listed alphabetically by surname):

Matt Addis - 'Perce' (Percy)

Benjamin Askew - Rob

Fiona Drummond - Hilda

Ben Ingles - Alec

Kate Layden - Gran

Polly Lister - Peg

Olivia Mace - Jean

Heather Phoenix - Leonore

Heather Sunders - Maggie

'A Safe Haven'

In 2010 Mr Brian Wilkinson - a Keswick local historian and volunteer helper at the 'Theatre by the Lake' - edited the reminisces of wartime evacuees and refugees held by Kewick Museum and Art Gallery into book format. The resultant book - "A Safe Haven" - came out in 2010. Many of the reminisces were incorporated into Lisa Evans' play.

As well as being a collection of wartime stories Mr Wilkinson's book also tells of love and security for a generation of children forced to come to terms with separation from home, family and friends. Good times and bad, happy times and sad - they are all here and related by those who experienced all of these these things.

The rural tranquility of the Keswick area would never be quite the same again after the 'invasion' of the children and scholars in 1939 and 1940. Likewise, those same children would never be the same again. In spite of everything, one would like to think the changes to their lives were mostly for the good.

Here are a couple of the reminisces quoted in 'A Safe Haven':

"At one house fancy dress, Elisabeth Hall, Susan Lloyd Williams and I dressed up effectively as Hitler Youth. Later that Saturday evening we went on to the station platform and passengers were alarmed to see a line of goose-stepping, saluting brown shirts advancing in them."
(Gillian Cotgrave, Roedean School)

"One winter it was so cold Derwentwater froze over. Mrs Colbeck took me skating on the lake. She sent me a pair of Victorian wooden skates - no metal runners. I never mastered them and spent most of the time on my backside."

Further reading:
Wilkinson, Brian (Ed.), "A Safe Haven: Evacuees in Keswick 1939 - 1945", 238 pages, Bookcase, Carlisle, Cumbria. Price - £12.

Friday, 11 November, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Further information about Keswick during WW2

Click on the following articles previously posted to 2WW Blogspot for further information about Keswick Hotel and 'Roedean at Keswick' during the war years:

Keswick Hotel during the Second World War

Roedean School at Keswick: the War Years

Roedean School Shield, Keswick

Friday, 11 November, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The quotation about the lake (Derwentwater) freezing over during the winter was made by evacuee Tom Joyce of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

It is not that uncommon for at least part of the lake to freeze over during the winter months. However, the ice is not always of sufficient thickness to skate on.

Friday, 11 November, 2011  

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