THE company of actors who will be presenting the world premiére of a Lake District tale have arrived in the region.

Theatre by the Lake, in Keswick, has welcomed the performers for The Shepherd’s Life, adapted by Chris Monks from the best-selling book by Matterdale farmer James Rebanks.

Rehearsals have now begun for the show, which Chris Monks also directs. The Shepherd’s Life opens on Saturday March 26 and runs until Saturday April 23.

The professional cast will be supported by 20 adult and child amateur actors and a flock of puppet sheep – Herdwicks, of course – as well as two puppet sheepdogs.

“This is such an exciting project for Theatre by the Lake,” said Matt Hall, Head of Production. 

“We have a strong track record of presenting Lake District stories at this theatre and it’s simply brilliant to be doing this particular show here – just 12 miles from James’ farm. 

“Audiences will learn a great deal about sheep and even more about the lives of the people who work so hard to care for them."

The company includes Chris Monks’ partner Janine Birkett, who has appeared in ten previous Theatre by the Lake productions. Chris learned about The Shepherd’s Life when he listened to it read on Radio 4’s Book of the Week, while he waited for Janine to finish a rehearsal in Keswick.

The only other member of the company who has worked in Keswick before is Catherine Kinsella, who appeared in The Maid of Buttermere in 2009.

The other six are delighted to be making their first appearances on a Theatre by the Lake stage. They include puppeteer actors Joseph Richardson and Ashleigh Cheadle, both of whom have appeared in the National Theatre’s War Horse, whose life-size puppet horses have found adoring fans around the world. Ashleigh was also a puppeteer at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

Actor Kieran Hill, who plays James, will bring to the production his experience of working on farms in rural Shropshire during school holidays. 

“It should be very interesting to perform in a play that’s based on a book that’s based on someone’s life that is still unfolding 10 minutes up the road from the theatre,” he said.

“James is a fascinating man with an incredible story to tell and it’s a privilege to be part of a project that honours him and all the other - to use his own word - "nobodies" of this wonderful part of the world.

“James’ account of his life is so observant and detailed that it gives us a fascinating insight into a world that the vast majority of us know so little about, yet it forms such an integral part of our shared history.”

The Shepherd's Life runs at 7.30pm each night, from Monday to Saturday, with a number of 2pm matinee performances throughout the run. For more information and to book tickets visit