Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

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Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby toots » Sat Jul 31, 2010 6:41 pm

Hello All,

I was lucky enough to be able to attend an event at Keats' House in Hampstead this afternoon. It was an open-air performance of a short play about the love affair between Keats and Fanny Brawne. The weather was warm and was kind enough not to rain on us even though clouds did threaten. We were able to enjoy a pre-performance picnic on the front lawn where the mulberry tree was producing a lot of fruit that we were exhorted not to pick as it was already proving very popular with visitors!

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The play itself lasted about an hour and the script was based on the poems and letters. The arranger and director was James Veitch who looks very young and is a recent graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, New York. The influence of Jane Campion's film 'Bright Star' was evident but not too surprising. (The performance ends with a recitation of 'Ode to a Nightingale' for example.)

'Keats in Hampstead' opens with 'La Belle Dame sans Merci' recited by the two actors playing Keats and Fanny. Andrew Dawson and Katie Beard are both young actors not long out of drama school and they did a fine job of showing the youthful exuberance of the lovers as well as the ups and downs of first love. They ran about among the audience and used the front of the house and garden very effectively for various entrances and exits. The first acted scene showed Fanny's reaction to hearing of Keats' death followed by Severn's description of his final days in Rome and his physical suffering. Then we go back and see Keats as he was in health and all the liveliness of his personality as seen in his letters. At one point he even picks up someone's bottle of picnic wine when he talks of claret. Keats and Fanny flirt and tease up and down the garden path. At one point she hangs out of an upstairs window as she describes Mr Keats' appearance.

Inevitably the storyline is very much compressed and simplified but it was no less effective for that. Keats' despair at losing Fanny came across strongly, while lighter moments were provided by the actors doing impressions of the critics; both the ones who gave negative reviews and the ones who were later more positive.

Incidental music was provided by a solo violinist (Barbara Bartz) who underlined the emotion a key points with short passages.

My only quibble was the delivery of the poetry could have been better. It was far too rushed in many places.

The whole experience was very moving and all the more so for being played in a place so much associated with the two protagaonists. As the story moved towards its inevitably tragic conclusion, even the breezes suddenly felt cooler. I'm so glad I went as it was a venture well worth supporting. I noticed an amorous young couple in the audience. I hope they came away valuing their lives and love all the more.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby toots » Sat Jul 31, 2010 8:40 pm

Image

I'm sorry I didn't manage to post the image properly in my posting above, but here is my photo of the audience waiting for the show to begin.

Here are views of the mulberry tree with mulberries:

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It's a beautiful tree still, even after all these many years.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby Raphael » Sun Aug 01, 2010 12:16 am

Many many thanks for posting this Toots! The Mulberry Tree is beautiful- I love their fruits...I would have been sorely tempted to eat one.. :wink:

Ah..how I wish I could have gone to this. :cry:

Have you any photos of the actors playing John and Fanny? Were they in the Regency clothes? What did the actor playing John look like? Was he short? I'd love to have been there and see them "flirt and tease up the garden path."

"At one point she hangs out of an upstairs window as she describes Mr Keats' appearance."

How did she describe him?
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby Keats9264 » Sun Aug 01, 2010 4:06 am

Oh that is beautiful. I can imagine myself there. As you face the house where does the Mulberry tree sit? I think I remember, but I want to be sure.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby toots » Sun Aug 01, 2010 6:45 pm

Thanks. It's right on the front lawn next to a large plane tree and a beech. As you can see from the picture, you can get right under it and find a truly 'quiet bower'.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby Cybele » Sun Aug 01, 2010 11:43 pm

Wow! Really wonderful!
Thank you for posting this!
I'm quite jealous!
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby Raphael » Mon Aug 02, 2010 12:10 am

Me too Cybele....if I could have gone I would have.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby toots » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:58 pm

Raphael wrote:Many many thanks for posting this Toots! The Mulberry Tree is beautiful- I love their fruits...I would have been sorely tempted to eat one.. :wink:

Ah..how I wish I could have gone to this. :cry:

Have you any photos of the actors playing John and Fanny? Were they in the Regency clothes? What did the actor playing John look like? Was he short? I'd love to have been there and see them "flirt and tease up the garden path."

"At one point she hangs out of an upstairs window as she describes Mr Keats' appearance."

How did she describe him?


No, I'm afraid I didn't take any photos of the actual play as it felt a bit awkward to be clicking away, although I could have taken a few at the end when the actors took a quick bow. There is a photo on the website at www.keatsinhampstead.com with a different actress.

The actors both wore simple modern dress which consisted of a white top and grey leggings for her and a T-shirt and casual trousers for him. They both had bare feet and moved around a lot. The whole effect was to make the acting seem as natural as possible and allow the audience to concentrate on the spoken words. Props were simple things such as a letter, a flower and a ring for the engagement scene.

The actress playing Fanny (Katie Beard) was blond and slim while the actor playing Keats (Andrew Dawson) was of medium height with brown hair. He brought out the passionate and playful sides of John Keats very well and did a pretty convincing death scene too.

She mentions how short Keats is but also talks about his 'luminous eyes'.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby Raphael » Tue Aug 03, 2010 4:11 pm

No, I'm afraid I didn't take any photos of the actual play as it felt a bit awkward to be clicking away, although I could have taken a few at the end when the actors took a quick bow. There is a photo on the website at http://www.keatsinhampstead.com with a different actress.


Thanks, I'll have a look at that.

The actors both wore simple modern dress which consisted of a white top and grey leggings for her and a T-shirt and casual trousers for him. They both had bare feet and moved around a lot. The whole effect was to make the acting seem as natural as possible and allow the audience to concentrate on the spoken words.



I would have preferred them in the clothes of the day as it for me, it would have the effect of having a window into the past.



The actress playing Fanny (Katie Beard) was blond and slim while the actor playing Keats (Andrew Dawson) was of medium height with brown hair. He brought out the passionate and playful sides of John Keats very well and did a pretty convincing death scene too.



Was he playing the scenes in Italy with Joseph Severn? Was he lying down by then?


She mentions how short Keats is but also talks about his 'luminous eyes'.



I bet Fanny didn't care about his height... :roll: didn't stop her loving him, nor make him less attractive... :wink:
But his eyes...yes they were luminous- the portraits show that. Does she describe him as handsome?
Sorry for all the questions! I really wish I could have gone!
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby toots » Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:03 pm

I didn't mind the actors not being in period dress. In fact, in this particular setting, I would have found that a distraction and I feel that period costumes would have limited their mobility and freedom of expression. As it was, the words and story came alive quite naturally. One felt these were people just like us rather than distant figures in a historical drama.

Fanny doesn't describe Keats as handsome, but she does say that he had a very resolute and determined air.

I have emailed the director for a copy of the script which he did mention was available so if that comes through, I would be happy to email it to you.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby Saturn » Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:23 pm

The script, or the text of the play 'Keats In Hampstead' you can actually purchase in the House, I bought a copy when I was there.

I've read it, and it's alright, but no attempt is made really to make a real person from Keats; it's a bit like one of those Oscar Wilde films where all the dialogue is just quotes from his work; a kind of 'Greatest Hits' set with no notion of the author as a living breathing person. Enjoyable run through of some of Keats best lines, but not really a proper play with convincing characters or emotions.

It was also written before Bright Star, way before and has been performed several times at Keats House so this performance is nothing new.

On the inside of the book [or rather quarto, as it almost looks like] it reads
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby Raphael » Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:37 pm

I didn't mind the actors not being in period dress. In fact, in this particular setting, I would have found that a distraction and I feel that period costumes would have limited their mobility and freedom of expression.


I love the clothes from that time period- so maybe I am biased- but the clothes from that time werre well cut and the women's clothes especially loose and comfortable and allowed easy movement- it was the later Victorian ear that had stiff clothing.


As it was, the words and story came alive quite naturally. One felt these were people just like us rather than distant figures in a historical drama.



I still think of them as like us, just living awhile back.. :wink: I don't know...I wouldn't have felt as convinced of them being John and Fanny in t- shirts as I would in Regency clothes. T- shirts are just not John Keats. I am a history buff though and feel close to people from the past and maybe that's why I'm a stickler for historical accuracy in plays/dramas/films etc.


Fanny doesn't describe Keats as handsome, but she does say that he had a very resolute and determined air.



Does she find this attractive- or is she coy at trying to hide she is attracted to him?


I have emailed the director for a copy of the script which he did mention was available so if that comes through, I would be happy to email it to you


Wow- thanks! I'd love that! I'd love to see what they say to each other when they flirt and tease lol
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby BrokenLyre » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:19 pm

I am soooooooo jealous too. I don't care how the actors looked or dressed...I don't care if they sounded American. ....I just would love to have seen Keats honored at Hampstead - and BE THERE for it! Thanks for the pics toots!!!!
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby toots » Wed Aug 04, 2010 4:00 pm

Yes, I agree with Saturn that it's not a play with any great substance. It is very much a collection of quotes which depends very much on the actors' energy and commitment to bring to life. Ideal as a presentation piece to complement a visit to Keats House, but there isn't anything in it you wouldn't find in a good biography.
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Re: Event at Keats' House - 31 July 2010

Postby Malia » Wed Aug 04, 2010 4:34 pm

Thanks so much for the great pics and description of the drama, toots. I love the lushness and warmth of those summer pics of Keats House. Both times I visited it was Autumn--first in October and then in November. The house was pretty quiet both visits (though the house wasn't devoid of visitors, by any means). I'd love someday to see that mulberry tree in fruit, myself--and of course to gaze upon all of the period-specific plants and flowers they have planted :)
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