Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

James Gibbs's Pinteresque Diversion

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

James Gibbs's Pinteresque Diversion

Article excerpt

AT A CONFERENCE held in Goldsmiths College's Pinter Centre, London, in 2011, James Gibbs and a group of performers presented a reading of a script written by Gibbs entitled Memory Play: Revisiting Bristol 1957 and a Production that "made history" which recalled the first-ever performance of a play by Harold Pinter. That play was The Room, and it marked the beginning of Pinter's career as a dramatist. To create his script - or diversion, as he referred to it - James Gibbs explored and drew on the extensive interviews conducted in 2008 as part of the British Library Pinter Project, using the memories and words of the original producer and performers of the play for a student production at Bristol University in 1957. Two of those actors could not be interviewed: George Odium, who played the blind black lodger Riley, had returned to St Lucia in 1961 and worked for the Ministry of Trade, becoming a well-known left-wing politician before his death in 2003. Claude Jenkins, who played the morose and silent husband of talkative Rose, could not be traced.

But from the interviews with the producer, cast, and backstage crew of that student drama group, Gibbs constructed a lively and fascinating story. The producer, Henry Woolf, a mature student at Bristol, had earlier been at school with Pinter, and it was he who persuaded Pinter to write a one-act play, his first, for Woolf to present as part of his Masters Theatre programme in 1957. …

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