RAILS is a tough watch at times.

Simon Longman’s play focuses on (dysfunctional) family life behind a nondescript front door of a nondescript house in a nondescript town.

It’s a sweltering summer and the atmosphere is stifling much of the time. While there are some heart breaking, harrowing scenes, Rails also has lots of humour – which had a welcome sprinkler effect.

The play, running at the Theatre by the Lake, in Keswick, until October, focuses on a mother and two sons, each lonely and living dead end, loveless lives.

The brothers both have dreams – Ben’s (Oliver Mott) beloved car is his lifeline and he sees the motorway as a means of escape. But he’s 27 and never followed this through having had to take on the role of main man following his dad’s departure and mum’s depression.

Young Mike (Toby Vaughan), 16, is more interested in aliens and stars – when he’s not falling off his beloved scooter.

Each of them is desperate to have a functioning parent – and friend.

Mum (Christine Entwistle) says nothing for much of the play but her presence is strongly felt.

While neighbour Sarah, 16, is a breath of fresh air – in a gobby, teenager way.

The cracking script and four powerful performances are captivating.

There are some raw and brutal scenes, brilliantly directed by Clive Judd – Ben crashing his beloved car, Mike being beaten up by a terrifying angry man, Sarah recounting the horrors of a party she had high hopes for, Mum sharing her pain.

The actors give their heart and soul.

The studio theatre and stark set is perfect for this intense drama. When the lights went up, you knew straight away that Rails was going to be an uncomfortable journey, possibly on a road to nowhere. But the fabulous mixture of heightened emotions and humour had the audience transfixed.