Students Staff

19 March 2013

Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott to premiere new play at the University of Essex

Derek Walcott at Essex

Professor Derek Walcott at the Lakeside Theatre

The world premiere of a brand new play by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott will be staged at the Lakeside Theatre at the University of Essex’s Colchester Campus from Thursday 2 May to Saturday 4 May.

Professor Walcott, recognised as one of the world’s greatest living writers, is travelling over especially from St Lucia to direct O Starry Starry Night, a play set in the South of France and recording Paul Gauguin’s visit to a troubled Vincent van Gogh while he was living in Arles in 1888.

Van Gogh and Gauguin often appear in Professor Walcott’s poetry and countless references to artists and painting feature in his work.

This will be a unique chance to see a play written and directed by the Nobel Laureate with Professor Walcott, a talented artist in his own right, also creating the set designs for the production.

His visit to the University will also be celebrated at the Lakeside Theatre on Saturday 27 April with a performance of Professor Walcott's work by Live Canon, an ensemble of actors who specialise in live performance of poetry.

Professor Walcott said: “I am looking forward to once more taking advantage of the wonderful facilities at the Lakeside Theatre and working with the talented creative team at the theatre and within the Department for Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies."

Professor Walcott will be bringing together an outstanding cast including four actors with Trinidadian roots - Wendell Manwarren, Nigel Scott, Paris-based Brian Carter-Green and Martina Laird. Now based in London, Laird was one of the stars of the acclaimed National Theatre production Moon on a Rainbow Shawl which Professor Walcott saw her in last year. David Tarkenter, a longstanding member of the Mercury Theatre Company in Colchester, who starred in last year’s production of Professor Walcott’s Pantomime is also part of the cast. An Essex student will also be auditioned to perform in the play.

Nigel Scott, who has worked with Professor Walcott many times and will travel across from Trinidad for the production, said: “You do not turn down a master, not when you have known and admired this man and his work for forty-five years, your whole adult life really! Not when you have seen him rise from bright, sharp-penned, theatre critic, emerging poet and playwright, into a Nobel Laureate at the height of his creative power!

“This is a culmination of a lifetime in Theatre, working with perhaps the brightest talent in the world. It does not get any better!”

This new play is the latest product of an incredibly creative period for Professor Walcott. In 2011, he won the prestigious T S Eliot prize for his collection of poetry White Egrets.

As Professor of Poetry at Essex over the past four years Professor Walcott has developed exceptionally strong creative links with the team at the Lakeside Theatre and academics in the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies (LiFTS).

On previous visits to Essex Professor Walcott has directed new productions of his plays Moonchild and Pantomime and the idea for the new play first came to him on his last visit to the University of Essex in 2012.

Lakeside Theatre Manager and Essex graduate Genine Sumner has worked with Professor Walcott on the two previous shows. She said: “It is really great to work with Derek - it is exhausting, challenging and demanding, but so much fun. He is also so overwhelmed with the support he gets here and the end product that we achieve.

“I studied Drama here at Essex and in my final year I spent a week working on Moonchild, it has been really lovely to have the chance to work with him each year since then.

“He told me he had started working on this script when he was directing his play Pantomime here last year and got me typing up the first two pages of the script. By the time he left Essex he had completed a scene or two and has continued working on it in St Lucia so we are really looking to seeing the play.”

Lakeside Theatre director Barbara Peirson said the play offered huge opportunities to Essex students.

Barbara said: ”We are finding ways of involving students in every possible aspect of the production. For example, a student will be cast in the play, students will be part of the technical team and our students will be involved in creating a documentary film about the production and Derek’s relationship with the University of Essex. As the show develops I am sure there will be even more opportunities for our students to engage with the process of staging a major new show by a leading playwright.”

Penny Woollard, who is researching Professor Walcott’s work within LiFTS and taught his work to First and Third Year undergraduates this year, is one of the producers on the show. She said: “The prospect of being involved with a new play by Derek, from its inception to its realisation, is very exciting. I have been very lucky over the last few years to watch him direct and bring his plays to life in our own theatre at the University of Essex.”

Professor Walcott agreed to accept the invitation to become Professor Poetry at Essex as the University is recognised as one of the leading universities in the UK for the study of Caribbean literature and comparative literature.

Leading scholars based within LiFTS include cultural historian Professor Marina Warner, Caribbean and renowned Post-Colonial literature specialist Professor Peter Hulme and Professor Cristina Fumagalli, who has written extensively on Walcott’s work and was central to persuading him to accept the invitation to become Professor of Poetry. LiFTS is also home to Glyn Maxwell, a former student of Professor Walcott's at Boston University and now one of the most influential poets of his generation, who is currently working on a new edition of Professor Walcott’s collected works.


Photos of Derek Walcott are available and further images will be available in April.

For further information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 874377 or e-mail:

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