OVERLOOKING Derwentwater, Keswicks Theatre by the Lake can claim to be the most beautifully appointed theatre in Britain.
Yesterday staff and guests gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a venue which also boasts Dame Judi Dench as president although Dame Judi couldnt be there yesterday.
When funding was being sought to create the new venue, the celebrated actor lent her name and powers of persuasion to the campaign along, it has to be said, with many others.
The theatre, sensitively designed to complement its surroundings, replaced the extraordinary Blue Box Theatre.
This was a series of mobile compartments which could be fixed together to make a serviceable, if rather uncomfortable, theatre.
Towed behind a wagon, it had toured the highways and byways of Britain after the War, taking theatre to places which had no permanent venue.
When it ceased to be roadworthy, it came to rest in a Keswick car park. For years it presented a season of plays for the summer visitors who were, no doubt, as curious about the theatre itself as about what they would see on stage.
But that is history. Over the past decade, the permanent Theatre by the Lake built at a cost of s6.25m on the site of the old Blue Box Theatre has earned a reputation as a comfortable modern venue where good theatre productions are made.
At yesterdays launch, artistic director Ian Forrest announced that two of its current studio productions, Blackbird, by David Harrower, and For All Time, by Rick Thomas, would tour in November to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
Its great for our work here at Theatre by the Lake to be seen further afield and I hope it will be the start of a fruitful relationship between ourselves and Stephen Joseph Theatre in years to come, he said.
It was announced that the Easter 2010 production at Theatre by the Lake will be the gentle comedy Stones in his Pockets, telling what happens when a Hollywood film crew arrives in a small town in County Kerry, Ireland, to make a period blockbuster.
Marie Joness hit play is to be directed by Theatre by the Lake associate director Stefan Escreet and will feature two of the venues regular actors, Dennis Herdman and James Nickerson, currently appearing in the summer season of plays. The versatile pair will play more than 15 characters between them. Lisa Evans, who adapted Lord (Melvyn) Braggs The Maid of Buttermere for the Keswick stage, has been engaged as associate writer, working on a number of projects including a community-based performance due to take place in October.
She has also been commissioned to write a play based on the war years in Keswick which is due for completion in 2011. If you have memories to share, you can send them via www.theatrebythelake.com.
A sum of s20,000 raised by the Friends of the Theatre will help to fund this and a 10th anniversary book called encore! written by David Ward and published by Bookcase of Carlisle. Meanwhile three anniversary exhibitions have opened at the venue. One of them, Anon2, features nearly 500 works of art displayed in a CD case.
There was a long queue when they went on sale on Sunday at s40 apiece, partly because some of them are by famous people including Sir Ian McKellen, Prunella Scales, Sir Alan Ayckbourn and Hunter Davies.
The exhibition, a repeat of one mounted as a fundraiser 10 years ago, runs until September 6.
For the record, over the past decade Theatre by the Lake has given 6,000 performances for a total audience of 1,163,000 people, generating s9.3m at the box office.