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Walcott's new play going to Essex
A new play by Derek Walcott will premiere at the University of Essex in England in May.
The play, O Starry Starry Night!, is based on the meeting of artists Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. The cast of seven includes Trinidadian actors like Wendell Manwarren, Nigel Scott, Martina Laird and Brian Green. British actors are still being cast.
Scott and Manwarren have worked with Walcott previously on numerous occasions at the Trinidad Theatre Workshop (TTW) which Walcott founded in 1959. Walcott—a poet, playwright and Nobel Laureate—has also been a visiting professor at University of Essex since 2009.
Scott will take on the role of Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, who was also Vincent’s patron. Manwarren will play Gauguin. Vincent (1853-1890) and Gauguin (1848-1903) were Dutch and French post-impressionist painters respectively. In 1888, Vincent spent time in Arles, France with Gaugin.
During this time Vincent honed his style but his work only gained acclaim posthumously. Gauguin on the other hand sold many paintings after their 1888 meeting. Walcott is also a painter and some of his watercolours were published with his collection Tiepolo’s Hound in 2000.
Working with Walcott
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Scott explained that Walcott invited him to join the TTW in 1967. Since then, Scott has performed in many of Walcott’s plays such as In a Fine Castle, The Joker of Seville, The Charlatan, Pantomime and most recently, Steel. Scott has also travelled with the company to Holland, Singapore and the US.
Working with Walcott is a magnificent experience, said Scott. “He’s a creative genius and that’s putting it mildly. Working with him is a fantastic experience. He’s constantly changing and rewriting which can be challenging for an actor but when you know the man for that length of time you learn to work with him and that creative process.”
Scott added that he was immediately impressed with the play. “It’s an amazing work—to think that this master craftsman, who is 83 this year, can still be writing works of tremendous passion and depth I think its amazing.”
Manwarren said he had a “deep, deep affection” for Walcott. “He’s always encouraged me and challenges me. I don’t always take all of it but I respect him and his mind and humour. He’s a hard worker. Sometimes he can be a hard taskmaster but most of all he’s very generous.”
Manwarren has been working with Walcott since the early 1990s. After winning the Nobel Prize in 1992, Walcott returned to T&T and there was an attempt to revive his work according to Manwarren. He jumped at the chance when Walcott announced he was looking for new actors, said Manwarren. This will be the first time Manwarren is working with Walcott on an newly-written piece. He’s performed in other Walcott classics such as Ti-Jean and His Brothers, Dream on Monkey Mountain and The Joker of Seville.
Trinidad Theatre Workshop
Walcott founded the TTW with his twin brother, Roderick along with Beryl McBurnie, Fred Hope, Eunice Alleyne. Apart from Walcott’s work, the TTW has also staged productions of many classics most recently Dennis Scott’s Echo in the Bone.
More on Walcott
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Walcott has received numerous awards including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship or genius grant in 1981.
More recently, in 2011 his collection White Egrets earned Walcott both the TS Elliot Prize and the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
He has published nearly 20 books of poetry and more than 20 plays. Walcott has also been a professor at Boston University and University of Alberta.
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