Reviewed by Jo Hardy
On a cold wet night in Cumbria the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick was a very welcoming place to be, the staff were so warm and friendly and the theatre building is bright, modern and very comfortable with easy access to refreshments and toilets on all floors.
Ladies That Bus was being shown in the studio on the second floor which is a smaller theatre with a very cosy feel, we were very close to the performers and could hear every word clearly.
There were only three cast members in the production who all played multiple parts. Before the show started Joyce Branagh who is the writer and a cast member announced to the audience that one cast member was being replaced at very short notice due to an accident, we weren’t told her name so cannot give her the recognition she deserves as she did an excellent job. There was a lot of dialogue and although in some scenes she had prompt sheets this in no way distracted from her performance.
Ladies That Bus is a play about the 555 bus route and the people that travel on the bus it is a regular route that goes from Lancaster to Keswick ,through some of the best scenery the Lake District has to offer and stopping at the main tourist spots. It is used by commuters and tourists and as we saw throughout the play has an interesting collection of characters that use it, as Joyce explained to us at the beginning of the show they spent a month traveling on the bus and talking to people about it. The play is a delightful mixture of fact and fiction.
The cast of three played the many characters very convincingly. There was a lot of laugh out loud humour in it but also some touching parts like the lady who had dementia, she was traveling with her daughter, we saw how she went from not recognising her daughter to remembering a small thing about her from the past then back to not recognising her, we really got a sense of the sadness and frustration this illness caused. We got a true feel of how the atmosphere of the bus changed throughout the day one of the funniest parts was one of the buses last runs in the evening when a lady got on the bus who had obviously had a few drinks and was going home after performing in a club somewhere, dressed as a member of ABBA she slurred some snippets of ABBA songs mixed with comments about her disappointing evening and interacted with some members of the audience.
I particularly liked how throughout the play they mentioned a lot of the tourist attractions along the bus route and a great poem about the full route and all the highlights. There were some catchy songs too and one cast members played the ukulele, guitar and flute during the final song the audience were encouraged to join in and we did.
Overall it was a delightful play, it made me laugh, it made me sing, it made me think, it made me want to explore the area more and maybe even take the bus, and it definitely made me think I want to go to see more theatre.
Tickets cost £12 (booking fees may apply).
Ladies That Bus is at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, Cumbria from 14-15 February 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.theatrebythelake.com or call the box office on 017687 74411.
Theatre by the Lake, Lakeside, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5DJ | 017687 74411