I DON'T think I've ever been to an all-male play before.

The Glee Club, which has opened at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, is set in 1962 and focuses on a group of Yorkshire miners.

The club, made up of five hard-working, hard-drinking men and a church organist, is preparing for the local gala.

But while the spotlight is on this masculine group of often soot-faced friends, with the pithead looming over the stage and talk of problems at work, women have a strong presence.

Times and Star:
In the all-male locker room these men are stripped bare - literally and metaphorically - and wander in and out of the shower discussing their issues - most of which have women at the heart.

Bantam's (Jack Lord) wife has bailed out after nearly 20 years of marriage, Walt's (Dan Bottomley) wife died leaving him with three children who he is unable to care for and Scobie's (Robert Jackson) wife is struggling after the birth of her fourth daughter.

Fresh-faced Colin (Linford Johnson), who exudes a lovely youthful energy, listens to all their woes and makes the most of not being tied down. Until his girlfriend gets pregnant and he's forced to grow up fast.

Phil (Eamonn Riley) lives with his mum, so has no wife to complain about.

But he ends up having a whole host of other problems and prejudices to deal with thanks to the society he's trying to quietly exist in.

Times and Star: While sadness and solitude takes centre stage at times it's cleverly countered with lots of upfront comedy and lively, light-footed song and dance routines.

The talented team flick the mood switch brilliantly, providing a breath of fresh air in what can feel like quite a claustrophobic community.
Between them the characters cover a lot of bases when it comes to social issues.

They all suffer and struggle but ultimately friendship, humour and a good sing-song wins out.

The Glee Club was written by Richard Cameron and is directed by Kate Wasserberg. Its premier 20 years ago was was so successful it transferred shortly after to the West End.

It is playing at Keswick until March 12, before touring round the country.