Ithaca in Stratford-upon-Avon: A Tribute to Sir Derek Walcott, Second Instalment of Blog Series

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By Miranda Jones, Research Advocate, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

 

Although the final script of Derek Walcott’s The Odyssey was published in 1993, a performance of the play has not been made widely available as a recording, and it is less well known today as it perhaps ought to be. As a result, when I started my role as a Research Advocate at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust this summer, I knew little about this production.

I set to work on searching for material in the vast archival collection, starting with an astonishingly useful box of papers simply titled ‘The Odyssey’. This unassuming cardboard box was filled with the stage-manager’s reports from every performance, with an exciting level of detail, from minor injuries to the cast (this was a very physical production) to practical issues (such as an unfortunate cast member who found themselves confusing the start time of a matinée performance, and inadvertently delayed curtain up as they dashed to the venue). Poignantly, one stage-manager’s report, dated Thursday the 8th of October 1992, contains this annotation: ‘Before the show Greg Doran made an announcement to the audience to the effect that Derek Walcott had been awarded the Nobel Prize (in Literature).’ This must have been a wonderful moment for the cast and crew, a recognition that this was a play written by a truly remarkable writer.

Alongside these stage manager’s reports, the box contained a cast list, ground-plans, a list of props (including lanterns, shields and a guitar, the latter of which has been helpfully doodled on an annotated script by one individual), sheets chronicling running times, letters and notes sent between the production crew discussing arrangements of such practicalities as a ‘cozzy fitting’ and cuttings of reviews from national and international newspapers. Further examples of the wonderful resources in the SBT collection are envelopes containing several beautiful photographs from the production, including those shown below.

You can hear Miranda speak about the production as a Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Research Conversation on Wednesday 13 September at 5.00-6.00pm in the Shakespeare Centre: ‘Stratford Salutes Sir Derek Walcott!’ The event includes an opportunity to look archive material and will include some readings of Walcott’s work. No tickets required. Free. All welcome.

 

The Odyssey, directed by Derek Walcott and performed at The Other Place in 1992. Photography by Joe Cocks Studio (B.W.Thornton). Ron Cook as Odysseus.

Ron Cook as Odysseus in The Odyssey, 1992. Photograph by Joe Cocks.

 

The Odyssey, directed by Derek Walcott and performed at The Other Place in 1992. Photography by Joe Cocks Studio (B.W.Thornton). Rudolph Walker as Blind Blue.

Rudolph Walker as Blind Blue in The Odyssey, 1992. Photograph by Joe Cocks.

 

Bella Enahoro as Circe in The Odyssey, 1992. Photograph by Joe Cocks.

Bella Enahoro as Circe in The Odyssey, 1992. Photograph by Joe Cocks.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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Author:Miranda Jones

Miranda Jones is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Birmingham, funded by the Midlands3Cities AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Her work analyses the use of the pastoral mode in the poetry of Derek Walcott. After completing her MA in Shakespeare Studies at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, Miranda is now working as a Research Advocate at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, working on a series of blogs relating to Sir Derek Walcott’s work with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She will be holding a session of the ‘Research Conversations’ seminar series at the SBT on Wednesday 13 September, which will be open to all who are interested in this production of The Odyssey. Read Miranda’s academic profile here: https://vpp.midlands3cities.ac.uk/display/maj170bhamacuk/Welcome

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