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The Emperor & the Nightingale actors arrive in Keswick

The cast of The Emperor and the Nightingale
The cast of The Emperor and the Nightingale

[E]ight actors arrived in Keswick yesterday ready to take Theatre by the Lake audiences on a journey to a remote corner of China in search of a nightingale.

They will now begin rehearsals for the theatre’s Christmas production of The Emperor & the Nightingale by Neil Duffield, which opens for a seven-week run on 26 November.

The play, based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen, tells of a young emperor who goes on a quest for the sweetly singing bird. He is shown the way by a feisty young girl who knows rather more about the world – and more about how to have fun – than he does. It’s a thoughtful, funny, something-for-everyone play, with plenty of adventure and surprises along the way.

Three of the eight actors have worked at Theatre by the Lake before. Joel Sams was in Swallows and Amazons three years ago, as was Frances Marshall who also had a hugely successful 2015 Summer Season with her roles in The 39 Steps, Abigail’s Party and Fallen Angels. Patrick Bridgman, who lives in Cockermouth, earns a long service medal, having acted both in the theatre’s opening season and many other productions since.

Martin Sarreal and Sally Cheng
Martin Sarreal and Sally Cheng

Of the five newcomers, Sally Cheng and Martin Sarreal left drama school in the last few years and have since both appeared in major productions, Sally in a version of Singing in the Rain staged jointly by three regional theatres and Martin in Here Lies Love, the hit musical about Imelda Marcos at the National Theatre. Both are looking forward to exploring the Lake District for the first time. “I’ve got my woolly hat and gloves ready,” said Sally.

Ed Parry, who recently graduated from Rose Bruford College, is making his professional debut in The Emperor & the Nightingale.

All eight actors are skilled musicians, perform on a wide number of instruments and will play and sing a new score by Richard Atkinson, who has composed music for many Keswick productions including The Rivals in the 2016 Summer season.

The Emperor & the Nightingale follows in the great tradition of Christmas plays for all the family that have been presented every year since Theatre by the Lake opened in 1999. Like all the others, it will be directed by Artistic Director Ian Forrest with designs by resident designer Martin Johns. But this will be their last show for the theatre since both Martin and Ian are moving on at the end of the year.

“It’s the end of an era but we are sure that Martin and Ian will make The Emperor & the Nightingale a show to remember,” said Rachel Swift, Head of Communications. “It’s a perfect story and a beautiful play.”

Tickets are from £10 and can be booked online at www.theatrebythelake.com or by calling the Box Office on 017687 74411.

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