IF WE still have a Queen’s Award for Industry, Her Majesty ought to head to Keswick to pin a plaque on actor Eric Potts, now a member of the summer company at Theatre by the Lake, writes DAVID WARD.

He arrived in April, will stay until November, and is on stage six nights a week in three plays; and, in what spare time he has, he is also knocking off scripts for two pantomimes to be staged at Christmas. (He has already written seven this year and his running panto script total has passed 300.)

For someone so busy, Eric sounds pretty relaxed and is clearly having fun. “I’m working with a lovely bunch of people in a fantastic location,” he said. “I ummed and aahed a bit before I said yes to the job - seven months is quite a long time - but it was the right decision. I’m having a lovely time.”

Eric won a place at Glasgow University to study law but, having got the acting bug at school and in a local drama society, he chose not to take it up and went off to Bristol to train for the stage instead. He has been in the business for 31 years and has played roles ranging from Big Ears in a Noddy show to Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor. He has appeared in a variety of plays in theatres up and down the country and in the West End and at many a Christmas has flounced around in frocks as a traditional pantomime dame.

He has appeared in many popular television shows ranging from Heartbeat and Last of the Summer Wine to Emmerdale and Casualty. He also played Mr Moore (a Wrexham FC supporter briefly suspected of being a serial killer) in Brookside and spent more than two years in Coronation Street playing Diggory Compton, the soap’s love-lorn baker.

“I had a great time. It was just a joy being part of such an iconic show and I never stopped getting a buzz as I walked down the cobbles to get to my little shop. Corrie is a remarkably well-oiled machine. The amount of work that has to be done to turn round the number of episodes they do these days is incredible. It’s done so efficiently but with such good spirit that I found it fun - despite being ready to start filming at 7am.”

The trick he perfected in Coronation Street was to learn the lines, say them - and then forget them. The trick needed for a Keswick summer season is quite different: an actor has to learn three lots of lines and make sure they stay in separate brain compartments until the final curtain falls early on a chilly Cumbrian night just after the clocks have gone back.

Eric has three contrasting roles, all them in plays on the Main House stage. In The Ladykillers by Graham Linehan, he plays One Round, a dim-witted crook with a heart, who spends a lot of time juggling with a cello and a trunk full of cash; in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice by Jim Cartwright, he draws on his panto experience to have fun with the audience as Mr Boo, a seedy, money-grabbing social club impresario; and is also on stage as Julian Touchweston-Smith, an upper-crust chinless wonder, in Alan Ayckbourn’s Dear Uncle which transfers Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya from Russia to Ennerdale.

“It’s a varied set of parts and each one is nicely different,” said Eric. “And I’m given a plate of sandwiches in Dear Uncle every night.”

Eric, who admits to carrying what he calls “a little bit of extra weight”, has slimmed down since arriving in Keswick and finding little use for his car. “I’ve been doing lots of walking, nothing too strenuous, so I’ve lost some weight and it’s great to feel my knees are not quite so sore as they were.”

Is he going to join company members who regularly dive into the lake after rehearsals? “No,” he replied. “I’m worried about the amount of water displacement I could cause.”

For further information on the Theatre by the Lake season go online at theatrebythelake.com. Box office 017687-74411.