Snoo Wilson Archive to launch at UEA
The Snoo Wilson Archive, a new collection within the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW), will launch this week at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
Mr Wilson graduated from UEA in 1969 and began writing in the same year. He was one of a handful of playwrights who reinvented British post-war theatre in the 1970s and 1980s, and remains one of its most radical and challenging voices. The archive material will play a crucial role in developing critical understanding of his life and work, and represents a resource of international significance.
Mr Wilson’s career spanned more than 40 years, from early plays written and performed at UEA and then with the Portable Theatre Company, which he founded with Howard Brenton, David Hare and Tony Bicât. Landmark works include: Pignight, The Pleasure Principle, The Glad Hand (Royal Court), The Soul of a White Ant, Vampire, The Number of the Beast, More Light, Darwin's Flood (Bush Theatre), The Beast (RSC), Orpheus in the Underworld (ENO), Bedbug, a musical (with Gary Kemp & Guy Pratt) based ond Mayakovsky’s 1929 satire (NT Connections 1995, 2016), and Reclining Nude with Black Stockings (Arcola Theatre).
As well as notebooks, diaries and working papers, the archive includes correspondence from, amongst many others, Peggy Ramsey, Sir Peter Hall, Max Stafford-Clark, Richard Eyre, Terry Hands, Sir Trevor Nunn, Howard Brenton, Simon Callow, Simon Stokes, Dusty Hughes, Jenny Topper and Carmen Callil. There are short stories, novel manuscripts and the unperformed and unpublished play, Revelations, ironically about an obituary writer, which Wilson was working on before his sudden death in 2013 at age 64.
While critics sometimes savaged Wilson’s work, the archives shows a consistent high regard amongst peers for his uncompromising originality.
Mr Steve Waters, a playwright and senior lecturer in UEA’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, said: “Snoo's loss to the theatre is keenly felt given his work's astonishing formal ambition and variety.
“It helps extend our notion of UEA's literary legacy by setting the papers of a playwright alongside the works of novelists and poets.
“I can see fascinating research possibilities arising out of the presence of these documents, for aspirant dramatic and creative writers consulting drafts and reviews and the like, as well as for theatre historians documenting the last 40 years of British theatre practice.”
Actor, writer and director Mr Simon Callow said: “It’s wonderful that Snoo’s work is available to be studied.
“His originality and scope were only grudgingly acknowledged by critics; with any luck a new generation of actors and designers and directors might as a result of the existence this archive give him another crack of the whip and reveal him for what he was: a pathfinder, a rule-breaker, a stargazer, a miner of deep and hilarious truths, a master of the universe. And a bloody good playwright.”
An event to celebrate the launch will be held at 6pm on Thursday, 21 April in UEA’s drama studio. The evening includes exhibits and readings from the archive as well as talks from Snoo’s friend and fellow playwright, Dusty Hughes, the theatre producer and director, Jenny Topper, and Simon Stokes, artistic director at the trailblazing Theatre Royal Plymouth. The event will be chaired by Mr Waters, and will include the announcement of the inaugural Snoo Wilson Prize for Playwriting.
The event is free but registration is required: http://tinyurl.com/hzfvba7