Caleb Williamson, the man behind Keats: A One Man Play, says his play is relatable to the youth of today.
Keats: A One Man Play, which opened in the area last spring, is coming back to the area, but this time it will be filmed. The play is at the Errington War Memorial Hall (1390 Errington Rd.) on Sept. 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $17 and are available at the door, in Mulberry Bush Bookstore in Qualicum Beach and Cranky Dog Music in Parksville.
Williamson said the play appeals to all ages.
“It’s about a young guy finding his way in the world and there’s a lot of young people that are trying to find their way,” Williamson said. “It’s about a guy dealing with lots of loss and falling in love for the first time and dealing with how to find his place in the world, and when he finds it, how to deal with the rejection of that.”
Williamson said that although John Keats is now taught in universities, Keats’ life is relatable to the youth of today because they don’t always have the money or support to follow their dreams as well.
“That’s why I think young people should come because it’s about them. It’s just about (a young person) who lived 200 years ago,” Williamson said.
For Williamson, he said that’s why Keats is more interesting than George Byron or Percy Shelley who had position and money to launch themselves into the world.
“Now he’s taught in university and history’s had the last laugh, but he didn’t experience that in his life,” Williamson said.
For people who like historical fiction, such as Jane Austen or BBC period dramas, Williamson said his play will appeal to those audiences as well.
“It’s going to be a different taste of the same period,” Williamson said.
But Williamson stresses that Keats: A One Man Play isn’t a lecture in a costume.
“Get out of the books because we learned about him in high school in literature, but we were stuck in the poetry. The poetry is fine, but come and see the guy who’s on stage, the 23-year-old, the 19-year-old, the 22-year-old because he lived a ton,” Williamson said.
Keats: A One Man Play is written and performed by Williamson, a Qualicum Beach resident. The play is a 90-minute solo show about the romantic poet John Keats during the year 1820.
Opening with the discovery that he has tuberculosis, the play follows Keats as he struggles with loss, love and pursuing his passion for poetry despite critical derision and commercial failure, according to Williamson.
Keats has been a years-long passion project, according to Williamson.
“It’s been nine years from pen to paper to today and we opened it last year,” said Williamson, adding that the idea for the play came to him in high school in 2001, during his time at Kwalikum Secondary School.
But he added the idea for the play wasn’t fleshed out until he graduated from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the U.K. nine years ago. Williamson said he then began researching the young poet by reading dozens of books and using holidays to Europe as a way to investigate where Keats lived and walked.
Then a few years ago, Williamson approached Ann Gates of ECHO Players and Thin Ice Theatre to direct the play.
Keats opened in Parksville last April, and in the past year Williamson said he and the director have been working together to tweak parts here and there.
“The play has changed a bit from last year, it’s tightened up just a bit,” Williamson said. “We need to keep the energy moving all the time.”
Gates said that filming the play is just another step forward. She added that with the filmed version it could help to enter the play into other festivals.
“The film is going to be an audition piece for Uno Fest in Victoria,” said Gates. She added that the festival is a showcase for one-man shows and it requires a fully-formed film.