In 2013, over a drink, we challenged each other to learn John Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ by heart. This single conversation was the catalyst to our creation of A Joy Forever: a series of events based on the life and writing of Keats.
We combine themed readings of his poems and letters with games, entertainments and food. They are social and playful performances which fuse our serious attention to Keats’ writing and history with more light-hearted entry points for curious audience members.
Amongst other set pieces, we have created an audience participation Tussie-Mussie cento based on the flowers in Keats’ poems (the Tussie-Mussie being a nineteenth century posy), Isabella’s Basil and Chocolate Cake, a bingo version of ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’, a Keatsian ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ a tableau vivant of ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ and new collaborative poems based on the 11-mile walks we took retracing the extant route from Keats’ house in Hampstead to his sister’s lodgings in Walthamstow and back.
We’ve been invited to perform different versions of A Joy Forever at the Walthamstow Garden and Appetite Festivals, Winchester Poetry Festival, the Bere Mill Festival in Hampshire, the Keats Shelley House in Rome and many times at Keats House in London. Like Keats himself, we travel light and can devise a new performance wherever you would like us to.
2021 is the 200th anniversary of Keats’ death. One way or another, we’ll be raising a glass to him.