John Sackville is to star in the upcoming production of William Wordsworth at Theatre by the Lake
The region will celebrate the life of the Lake Poet, as a new play takes an unexpected look at the man who danced with the daffodils.
At the beginning of April, Cockermouth will hold its own Daffodil Day, celebrating the life of Poet Laureate, William Wordsworth. Inspired by his most famous poems, the town turns golden, in memory of the man born in Wordsworth House in 1770
This year, people all over the Lakes will be remembering the remarkable Wordsworth, as a play in his name offers a closer look at the private life of a revolutionary.
‘William Wordsworth’, showing at Theatre by the Lake, gives audiences a rare snapshot of an extraordinary man, dealing with very ordinary and relatable, personal difficulties; a man struggling to pursue his dreams, while also trying to ensure the survival of his family.
Born in Cockermouth, Wordsworth later returned to the Lake District from Somerset in 1799 and settled at Dove Cottage in Grasmere with his sister Dorothy. The cottage was to be the place where he crafted his most famous work, the poem which most will know him for today, ‘I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud’. His close friend, and fellow Lake Poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, also lived close by. Together, Wordsworth and Coleridge helped launch the Romantic Age in English literature, with the publication of their collaborative work, ‘Lyrical Ballads’ the previous year.
Coleridge is fundamental character in the play, along with Wordsworth’s family and children. They help to tell a story of a much more conservative and ordinary character than many would perhaps expect, as he deals with a particularly tumultuous time in his life.
Actor John Sackville, who will play the part of Wordsworth, has learnt a great deal about the poet in his preparation for the role.
John said: “Everyone thinks of Wordsworth as the great poet and legendary figure, which he is and there were things about him that were extraordinary obviously, but also he had to deal with a lot of very ordinary, difficult elements of his life particularly where his family were concerned.”
He continued: “It’s really a story of dreams and survival; how a man has to learn to let go of some of his own needs and embrace the needs of others. The play charts the change of a human being from a certain place with certain attitudes, he then shifts and transforms into something else, which is how it is for all of us in our lives.”
The play is set in 1812, a time when money was tight in the Wordsworth household, the children were sick and his sister Dorothy had troubles of her own. It is thought that during this time he became increasingly conservative and his political views underwent a transformation.
John said: “His take on life, looking back at the poems now, I think he was a deeply spiritual man, one who looked at the world, sensed the world and felt about the world, in a way that was way ahead of his time.
“I realised that when he got older, he became very conservative, in a way that you would not expect of a man who was revolutionary early on and genuinely radical and also had this amazing vision about how humanity manifests in their truest form.”
Wordsworth outlived the other Romantic poets, including Coleridge, who lived fast and died young, surrounded by the glamour of the Romantic movement. However, John believes that even though he lived on, Wordsworth never lost that revolutionary further and was actually far more visionary than the others.
‘The Prelude’ which was published three years after his death, intensely depicts Wordsworth’s spiritual growth as both a man and a poet. The poem perfectly captures how he came to terms with himself and his place within nature and the world.
John added: “The other thing I have learnt is that he was actually a man far more flawed in the sense that, I think he had a certain opinion of himself and that could get in the way of his ability to connect to humanity, which is ironic because that was something he was brilliant at.
“He really focused on people in the Lake District and their lives and writing poetry about their lives.”
Throughout his life, Wordsworth was hugely influenced by his home, the Lake District and the extraordinary surroundings. The region has helped mould one of the most legendary poets in the history of English Literature and is the setting of the most renowned poems of this time; it is only fitting that it would stage a unique insight into the man behind the myth.
John said: “Standing on a peak in the Lake District, looking out across something that gives you a sense of, as Wordsworth would say ‘the eternal’. I remember well, standing there as a 16-year-old and looking out across the peaks and feeling, just an absolute chance of possibility; it’s very special.”
William Wordsworth is showing at Theatre by the Lake Saturday 1 – Saturday 22 April. For tickets and more information visit www.theatrebythelake.com