New musical inspired by Wordsworth

TOGETHER they wrote the Lyrical Ballads which launched the Romantic movement in English literature. Now William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are to ‘star’ in a new musical inspired by the writings of the Lake poets.

Wander, which opens at the Hope Street Theatre in Liverpool next month, takes the story of the Romantic Poets, mainly Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy,  and Coleridge, and reimagines them in an alternative, more  contemporary setting akin to the 1960s/70s. It features characters called Will, Sam and Dot, songwriters who aim to change their world with their music and lyrics.

The show is written by Jordan Kennedy – who also plays the lead – to consider what would happen if you merged the Lakes poets with the rock and roll energy of Lennon and McCartney? The production is set in an alternative England where the Swinging Sixties and the Romantic Period are fused. Musician Will Laker looks back on his life and career as he addresses his long-time friend and song-writing partner, Sam. Through Will’s eyes we learn  how he and Sam met and planned to create life-changing music, inspired by a dream.

The show features Will’s sister, Dot, portrayed as an overshadowed wallflower with writing talents of her own; Will’s childhood sweetheart Mary; Sam’s supportive but long-suffering wife Suzie, and his lively, spirited muse, Chrissy.

As Will dissects his life, he pinpoints crucial moments of his relationships and wonders what was it that led him to his current position in life, and what might have been.

Wordsworth and Coleridge, back in their time, were great friends with a complex relationship. Jordan Kennedy wonders if they might have been guitar-toting rock stars if they had been born in the 1960s, and so Wander presents the relationship of the two Lakeland poets in the context of the creation of a 1960s rock album.

Jordan studied Creative Writing and English Literature at the University of Cumbria and stars as Will in the musical. He says: “I was struck by the parallels between Wordsworth and Coleridge’s relationship and that of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Lennon was the natural genius, the magpie, the one who thought outside the box, raw and emotional. Well, that was Coleridge too. Then we have McCartney and Wordsworth, who were productive, churning out work like machines, family men, homely people, who could sometimes be dismissive of other’s work and sometimes bossy but wanting to make it whatever.”

The show, he says, is inspired by both eras and the costumes reflect this, while the songs are contemporary  versions of the poems. “You will see the darker sides of the characters as well as the highs and lows, and the show explores ambition, addiction, love, passion and art. Wordsworth was a great humanist and wrote about the ‘everyman’, he had such insight into  everyday life and that’s what this show tries to do.”

Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet, whose family still own the house where he lived at Rydal Mount, said: “”How marvellous to see yet another generation being inspired by the life and poetry of Wordsworth. This show sounds like great fun as well as a  new insight into the character of William.”

Wander plays at the Hope Street Theatre, Liverpool, Sept 1-3. Tickets and details:

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