Award Winning Actress Brings Her Own Play to Keswick
Polly Lister – I Was a Wife
Throughout her 20 years on the stage, Polly Lister has taken on many different roles. Yet none were as challenging and heart-wrenching as the part she signed up to play for a lifetime, that of a wife.
Since her debut at the Theatre by the Lake in 2004, playing an ugly sister in Cinderella, Polly Lister has become a familiar face, with numerous summer seasons, Easter and Christmas shows under her belt. This February, the award-winning actress will return to Derwentwater once again, only this time with a show of her own.
‘I Was a Wife’ is a one-woman show, written and performed by Polly. In a nutshell, it is a raw and brilliantly honest look at one of the most difficult times of her life, the breakdown of her marriage. Polly whole-heartedly believed in marriage and only intended to make the vows once, yet despite a fairytale wedding in the Lake District, Polly never quite got her happy ending. In this play, she invites you into her dressing room, to experience first-hand the comic highs and agonising lows of the many characters she played while her personal life fell apart.
Polly said: “When my husband told me he wanted a divorce it was a really difficult time, not least because I am a bit of a detective. I wanted answers and there wasn’t any.”
Left without any explanation, Polly had the urge to write a self-help pamphlet for anyone else who had been hurt and not told why. However, director Joe Sumsion, who she was working with at the time, suggested that after 20 years in the theatre, she write a play about it instead.
Polly explained: “I didn’t want it to be an angry play…It was more an exploration of myself and what I had done. The play spoke to me in the way of being a different woman in each role I was playing. All the characters I played through my marriage and on the stage comment on me as a person.”
However, Polly added: “While it is a very personal play, it is actually quite universal. We all want answers and we all want to know why. It’s an irreverent, honest look at my marriage and it can get quite ugly. I get quite ugly about myself – as anyone does – and I think while people are laughing they are also thinking “I’ve been there.”
Despite the fact that she was about to give it all up for the role of a lifetime, Polly’s career has been one of her biggest support systems. While her personal life was unraveling, her professional one was accelerating and for this she is duly grateful.
She said: “Being on stage has been the best tonic, it is so absorbing. When I got the phone call saying he (my husband) wanted a divorce, I was playing Cruella de Vil. When I was on stage it was the only time I couldn’t feel the pain. For those two hours I could turn it off because I had to, I just couldn’t even go there.
“The best thing that could have happened to me was to be happy in my work. I also felt a real loyalty to the theatre, because I had been ready to give it up and be a wife and have a family. The profession has been so loyal to me – I’ve never been as busy – it has kept me sane and given me a real purpose.”
Last year, Polly won audiences over with her performance as Beverley, in Abigail’s Party at Theatre By The Lake and earned herself a UK Theatre Award. She believes that her still-fresh heartache, played an imperative part in her portrayal of a tragic character, desperate for acceptance.
Polly said: “I do feel that Beverley was a part that I was born to play, but I think if this hadn’t happened to me I wouldn’t have done it justice, I would have read her differently. I was able to play Beverley as a much more rounded character.”
“I think everything you endure enables you to access different parts of you. I am able to feel things much deeper now that those wounds have been created, even though they have healed, that place is so much more accessible now.”
As an actress who has dedicated her career to northern theatres, for Polly, winning the award meant the Theatre by the Lake finally receiving some well-deserved recognition. Now she can’t think of a better stage for ‘I Was a Wife’, as so much of the plot was played out on those very lake shores.
Polly added: “I feel absolutely privileged to bring my own show here. My whole life has taken place on the shores of Derwentwater. Keswick has such a huge part in all of the characters I’ve played.”
‘I Was a Wife’ written and performed by Polly Lister, is showing at Theatre by the Lake, Thursday 23rd – Saturday 26th February. For full show times and to book tickets visit www.theatrebythelake.com