Theatre Review: After the Dance by Terence Rattigan

Izabella Urbanowicz (Joan Scott-Fowler) and Richard Keightley (David Scott-Fowler) in After the Dance. Photo by Keith Pattison.

By Ken Powell

Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake (TBTL) opened their Summer season with an incisive look at life for the ‘Bright Young Things’ of the 1920s after they had grown up and the ‘dances’ had stopped.

Set in the late 1930s with the threat of another world war looming, After the Dance follows the life of the Scott-Fowlers – a married well-to-do couple whose marriage turns out to be extremely fragile after 12 years of pretence. This tragicomedy, despite being written in 1937-38 is remarkably fresh and relevant today – only now it’s pubs and clubs rather than dances and parties and with ‘pretence’ played out in the virtual world (Facebook is cited by many US lawyers as the primary source for divorce proceedings) as much as the real one.

More than that, Rattigan succeeds in making us question the whole matter of truth and pretence. The central character, David, leads a lavish playboy-style life but wants to be a writer. When it looks like that dream might become a reality – but at a cost –  we’re then led to question whether being ‘true to himself’ was really that at all. What if, Rattigan invites us to ask, the pretence was actually the reality all along?

The team at TBTL have produced a wonderfully intriguing season opener, as lavish as you’d expect any main house production yet probing the human condition at a depth you’d expect from one of their studio productions. Comic, light, yet also at one point hand-to-the-mouth-in-horror tragic, the play is both delightful and dark.

Not everything is perfect. The latter scenes have perhaps a little too much space and silent introspection and there are one or two characters introduced briefly in Act II which don’t really need to be there at all. These are minor quibbles though; on the whole, this is an excellent beginning to the season.

It was good to see Richard Keightley back, much matured since his time with TBTL in 2015, taking the role of David and doing an excellent job. Other cast members were, mostly, equally strong. But it’s full marks to Izabella Urbanowicz as the wife, Joan, who gave a performance that was as moving as it was mesmerizing. In the hands of a lesser player, this role could have lacked believability and run the risk of becoming farce. With Urbanowicz, we were gripped from beginning to end. She is the reason you want to see this play, quite honestly, but go prepared to be challenged as much as entertained.

‘After the Dance’ runs in the Main House until 4 November. Book tickets online at or call the box office on 017687 74411.  

Dazzling performance from Izabella Urbanowicz (Joan Scott-Fowler) in After the Dance. Photo by Keith Pattison.