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The Stage review of Grasmere

posted Jun 29, 2010, 3:28 PM by Rachel McKinney   [ updated Jun 30, 2010, 11:25 AM ]

Monday, August 13, 2007


The relationship between William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy was sometimes uncomfortably close.  Kristina Leach’s moving play set in 1802 also features their laudanum-quaffing friend and fellow poet Coleridge, as well as a young woman who will capture Wordsworth’s heart and break his sister’s.

This fine production by a young and poised cast conveys a real sense of the writing and emotional lives of these characters. The actors succinctly suggest a strong sense of the period and the tortured deliberations that lead to great poetry.

Coleridge, played by Brent T Barnes, is something of a maverick, alive with humour, in love with Dorothy’s spirit and her brother’s genius. He’s struggling to complete The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and fighting both his demons and excruciating physical pain. His relationship with Wordsworth (Matthew Waterson) is given a multi-layered dimension.

Dorothy, skilfully performed by Rachel McKinney, strikes you as another thwarted female genius confined by the restrictions on her sex. She’s also a proto-feminist, resenting her lack of liberty, wanting to explore the world but tied to her cottage and her complex desire for her brother.

Beautifully paced, with frequent glimpses of humour and some stylish directorial choices, this is a strong ensemble performance of a sensitive piece of writing.