Ruth Rosen offers Chichester celebration of William Blake

Burning Bright brings the words of William Blake to the Minerva Theatre in Chichester – the very city in which he was so famously tried with uttering seditious and treasonable expressions against the king.

Ruth Rosen
Ruth Rosen

In the Minerva (January 12, 7.45pm), poetry and prose performer Ruth Rosen will be just a few hundred yards away from The Guildhall where his trial ended in acquittal in 1803.

William Blake is today considered one of Britain’s greatest artists, but the poet, painter, engraver and prophet lived a life of obscurity and poverty amid accusations of madness.

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Using only Blake’s own words – from his letters, poems and prose – Ruth will take us on an inspiring, moving and sometimes startling journey through the extraordinary mind of Blake’s visionary genius.

“I thought it would be so wonderful to do this show in Chichester especially with all those connections,” Ruth said.

“I have done it before in quite a few places and I just thought Chichester would really connect.

“And I thought that would be wonderful after he was tried and acquitted for sedition to come back to Chichester with Blake’s great genius. You see his genius in the fact that Jerusalem is effectively the second national anthem in this country.

“I first came across him when the Tate Britain commissioned me to do a reading of him because they have got so many wonderful Blakes there and that’s when I first learned about him.

“It was such a revelation. He is such a great genius and there is so much material.

“He talks about man being the poetic genius and that all geniuses have their own forms whether animal or tree or whatever.

“But his thesis is that man is the poetic genius and he had this most extraordinary visionary faculty.

“He often wrote for 35 minutes without stopping and that’s what he spent his life pondering – where did it come from and how can we understand it?

“The poem Jerusalem comes from Milton and he begins by saying rise up men of the New Age and that is so relevant particularly now that we are living in such a material society.

“He brings us completely back to poetry and the world of the spirit and the things that really matter in our modern world. He had no brain for commerce as we know. It was about the world of the spirit.

“It is difficult to put it into words but he just brings everybody back. He was saying all religions are one. He defines how it happens that everybody can be alike but different. His message for today is a message of truth and the spirit and a sense that we have been corrupted by material things – as we all know.

“The show is just Blake’s own words. There are no accoutrements. It is just Blake talking. I did a similar show with Keats where I just used his letters. With the Blake it is just his own words again and all the words have a resonance and a peace of their own.

“I did this in New York for the 250th anniversary and they loved it. I think he is well known amongst the literati (in the States). I think the fact is that he is speaking for all ages, like Shakespeare does, like all the great writers do and in the same way that all the great painters did, the painters that he greatly admired, painters like Raphael and Michelangelo.”

Tickets from the CFT.