ONE night just before Christmas actor Luke Jerdy flew high on wires over the acclaimed stage at Theatre by the Lake.

Instead of picking out murmurs of amazement from the audience that he'd come to expect, he heard a small child, who had probably been brought up on the Disney film, yell: “That’s not Peter Pan!”

Luke spent the next couple of hours during his performance at the Keswick theatre trying to prove to this young sceptic that he really was the boy who refused to grow up. He certainly convinced the critic from who was impressed by the “powerful wistfulness” he brought to the part.

Playing the title role in Peter Pan at Theatre by the Lake until January 31, Luke says he loves live theatre because anything can happen and every performance is different: “I just like the buzz of performing," he explains. "You can reveal parts of yourself on stage that you might not want to show off stage. And there is no greater thrill for me than hearing an audience laugh at something I have just said or done.”

Luke, 24, tall, sporty and half Iranian, caught the acting bug quite young. He didn’t perform much at secondary school in the east Midlands (“it wasn’t a cool thing to do”) but soon became a regular at the youth theatre in Derby.

He opted for drama school in Manchester partly because he feels a stronger bond with the north than the south but perhaps more because he is a dedicated Manchester United fan. Although, he admits the Reds are not likely to win the Premiership this year but keeps hoping.

Luke went straight from his acting course on to the stage of the New London theatre to join the cast of War Horse and perform in front a thousand people every night: “I had to do four auditions before I got the part and it was wonderful to be working in London just after I’d graduated. I played Billy for a year and then Albert, his cousin, for six months.

“It was the most amazing experience of my life. There is nothing else on stage like War Horse. The horses are so lifelike – I was in awe of the three puppeteers and it was a privilege to work with such amazing creations. "Albert is the leading human character but I was very happy to share the limelight with Joey the horse.”

After War Horse, Luke, like many fellow thespians, faced a bit of a gap and worked as a labourer on a building site and as a cocktail waiter in a bar; he’s proud of his Godfather concoction: whisky and amaretto with ice. Then last year he landed the part of Sebastian (the twin of the heroine Viola) in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the first production at the newly rebuilt Everyman theatre in Liverpool.

Just before heading for Keswick, he was in Romania working with Harvey Keitel on Chosen, a film set in the Second World War, which should be released in time for the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Luke says he was delighted when he landed the role of Peter Pan at Theatre by the Lake. He knew of the theatre’s reputation and while at college had applied (unsuccessfully) to join the summer season company.

“Peter is a lovely part and I think it suits some of my personality,” he adds. “I’m not as arrogant or as much of a show-off as Peter but I’ve got a lot of confidence.”

Luke’s Peter is tough and authoritative as he bosses the lost boys and fights evil Captain Hook. “I wanted to show both the dark side and the childish side of Peter as well his happiness in not growing up. There are lots of pitfalls in not growing up; Peter has to grapple with being stuck in that world and that age.”

Luke himself has had to grapple with flying and at first found it painful: “It puts a lot of pressure on the lower back area so I do a lot of stretches and exercise to make sure my muscles are not tight. Now I’m used to it, I really enjoy flying and have become more and confident as the run has gone on.”

Luke points out that performances for schools and for more mixed audiences are vastly different. He said the kids love anything cheeky and create an uproar when Peter says “silly ass;” the adults simply titter and wait for the next line. “So when there’s a schools performance, I try to be more cheeky and arrogant; kids also seem to love a bit of aggression.”

At the end of this month, Peter flies to Neverland for the last time and Luke will head back home to London without having had much chance to explore Cumbria. However, he has scaled Skiddaw and taken a trip to Carlisle: “I really wanted to have a Nando’s…”

Box office 017687-74411.

* In 1929 Peter Pan author JM Barrie donated the copyright of the story to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH) in London. As a result royalties from Peter Pan productions are paid to GOSH.

Huge demand for tickets for the Theatre by the Lake show means that it will raise around £15,000 for GOSH by the time it comes to an end of its Keswick run. The money will help to provide vital medical equipment and fund research into better treatments for children suffering from the rarest, most complex and often life-threatening conditions. It will also help to provide accommodation close to the hospital for their parents.