Documentary by local outfit set to air on the BBC

The Orion TV crew at the Theatre by the Lake. From left, executive producer Bob Whittaker, producer Marrisse Whittaker and cameraman Kelwyn Whittaker.
The Orion TV crew at the Theatre by the Lake. From left, executive producer Bob Whittaker, producer Marrisse Whittaker and cameraman Kelwyn Whittaker.

An Alnmouth-based independent television production company has produced a special feature for the BBC, which will be aired next week.

During November, the BBC, in association with UK Theatre, is celebrating British theatre via a range of programmes running across television, radio and online.

Filming on stage at Theatre by the Lake.

Filming on stage at Theatre by the Lake.

As part of this, Orion TV won the commission for a documentary featuring the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, to be shown on BBC One on Monday at 7.30pm in a programme called On Stage. It is one of 11 regional pieces which capture the challenges facing theatres across England.

Bob and Marrisse Whittaker, who launched Orion TV a decade ago, are delighted to have won the commission.

“We are thrilled,” admits Bob. “Our last three commissions have been with Discovery, History and Channel 4. It’s been a while since we produced a show for the BBC – where I worked for 10 years. So it is great to get back producing for the BBC.

“Eight of the 11 regional shows will be repeated on network television as a series, most likely BBC Four.”

The Theatre by the Lake receives very low grant support but succeeds due to high numbers of tourist theatre-goers and locals. More than 200 volunteers also help to keep the theatre afloat.

It grew out of the old Century Theatre, in which the company travelled the country with a collection of wooden boxes laying on plays at towns and cities without a theatre.

Orion TV has chosen to focus on Theatre by the Lake’s repertory system, when a company presents several works regularly or in alternate sequence in one season.

Bob said: “The repertory system has now almost died out in regional theatres. Instead, most have become venues for national touring productions or for bands engaged in one-night stands.

“We focus on 12 actors who learn to perform in six different plays between them over the seven-month-long season. We follow them from arrivals, through rehearsals, dress rehearsals up to first nights.”

Rachel Swift, head of marketing at Theatre by the Lake, said she was delighted that Orion wanted to make a documentary about the venue.

She told the Gazette: “We are the most remote producing theatre in England so it was great to be singled out and included in the BBC’s celebration of theatre across the country in this way.

“Orion worked really hard to capture what is a very long and complex season and were sensitive to the needs of a busy producing theatre. Hours of hard work and commitment went into making it happen and although we haven’t yet seen the documentary, we have high hopes that it will help spread the word about the work of Theatre by the Lake, as well as the health of regional producing theatres in general.”