EVERY night - and sometimes twice daily - the stage of Theatre by the Lake bursts into bloom as a tale is told of a sad little orphan, a girl who is uprooted from her home in India to find friends and happiness in Yorkshire, writes DAVID WARD.

It’s a heart-warming play, a stage adaptation by Jessica Swale of the The Secret Garden, the much-loved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett originally published in 1911 and never out of print since.

It’s a complex show, with contributions by designers of sets, lighting and sound, by a composer, a puppeteer and a movement specialist; an on-stage earthquake is an extra complication. Just one person was charged with bringing together and coordinating all these elements: Liz Stevenson, Theatre by the Lake’s associate director.

“We have all had to work together to tell the story,” she said. “I’m the one responsible for making sure that the audience’s experience of the show is clear and entertaining. I was thinking all the time of these different elements in rehearsals, thinking about where the focus was on stage - deciding what I wanted everyone in the audience to look at.

“That was especially important in this play, where we sometimes have two scenes or two worlds presented at the same time. And the really big challenge was how to make the secret garden at the heart of the story appear on stage, how we could tap into the imagination of the audience.”

Liz did a lot of preparatory thinking and research and had firm ideas about the shape of the show. “But I also had to be quite open because I never know what ideas actors will bring to rehearsals. A balance needs to be struck between being prepared and being spontaneous.”

Liz, a proud Lancastrian who grew up in Chorley, joined the Theatre by the Lake team less than a year ago but has already directed three shows in Keswick, including Moira Buffini’s Handbagged, a story of Margaret Thatcher’s regular audiences with the Queen that turned out to be the word-of-mouth hit of the summer season. Three plays in a few months is a pretty hefty workload but this year Liz has also directed Macbeth (her first Shakespeare) for young actors in Lancaster. And if that wasn’t enough, she formed Junction 8, a new theatre company based in Chorley and staged its first production in the town’s covered market in October.

Liz acted at school and then at Nottingham University, where she read English. In her second year, she had a go at directing and has been telling actors what to do ever since. She trained at Birkbeck, University of London, on its prestigious directing course, which included a placement at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester; then she had to get her career going.

She applied for and won the JMK Award, a prize established in memory of James Menzies-Kitchin, a young theatre director who died suddenly at the age of 28. “Winning that was the best thing that could have happened to me,” said Liz. The major benefit was the chance to direct a play at London’s Young Vic and Liz’s late 2015 production of Barrie Keefe’s Barbarians gained a four-star review in the Guardian and was nominated for an Olivier award. She was only in her early twenties but had hit the big time.

A year later, Liz secured the job in Keswick. She spent holidays in the Lake District as a child and loves the area. “Keswick seemed a lovely place and I kept my eye on what was going on at Theatre by the Lake because I wanted to make work in the north, where I feel at home – I’m not a director who just wants to work in London. I wanted to work for communities in real places.”

She finds Theatre by the Lake a relaxed, welcoming place and there are benefits that few other theatres can offer: “After a rehearsal I could walk down to the lake and perhaps buy a few postcards at the National Trust shop. Just to be able to do that during a break was amazing.”

She admits to being a bit weary after her very busy year and will be glad of a break in the new year. Her only ambition is to continue balancing work in theatres with work for her own company in Chorley, to which she retreats to rest, see her family and walk the dog.

“Every job I have done has thrown me into the deep end in a different way. I’m exhausted but I have been lucky to learn so much in so short a time. Whatever I go on to do, I will always look back on this year as the time I began permanently working as a director. I will always associate that with Keswick. It’s where I cut my teeth.”

The Secret Garden runs at Theatre by the Lake until January 13.