Snoo was a natural iconoclast – be inspired by this archive to write joyous, freewheeling, audacious, iconoclastic plays


Snoo Wilson’s Archive launch took place at UEA on 21 April 2016 with speeches from the playwright Steve Waters, the playwright and director, Dusty Hughes, and the theatre producer, Jenny Topper.

Performances from the archive were given by actors: Alastair Bourne, Sam King, Gabby Onyett and Emily Wyley.

Excerpts from a speech given by the theatre producer, Jenny Topper, on the launch of the Snoo Wilson Archive at UEA are included below.

“During the latter part of Snoo’s life he faced rejection or perhaps I should say indifference more than most – quite wrongly – so I thought then and I continue to think now. For he was not only a wonderful man but also a unique writer who, as Simon (Callow), a most stalwart supporter of Snoo’s writing, would have said, were he here, wrote plays dominated by big and generous ideas, plays that often had a sprawling canvas but were full of humour, full of a genuine spirit of enquiry & usually had an erudite pioneer drawn from all over the world, from all over history at their centre. Simon directed three of Snoo’s plays – two of them – MORE LIGHT & DARWIN’S FLOOD in my top three Snoo Wilson plays – and I know that he relished the sheer inventiveness, the wit, the audacity and the collison of ideas within each of the plays as much as he did working with Snoo, who as a man was as big and generous in spirit as were his plays.

For myself, putting on my own hat and thinking about both Snoo the man and Snoo the playwright, I think that yes, this is all true but that actually quite often, such was his energy as a writer, that ideas actually rampaged through his plays, often taking no hostages but always with such a joyful sense of the infinite possibilities of theatre that the reader, the director, the audience could only be seduced into entering into & marvelling at the worlds he created. Or to put it another way: most of us have one drawer of a filing cabinet in which we store our knowledge of the world, Snoo had not just a whole filing cabinet but  an office full of serried ranks of filing cabinets, all of them jam packed with what he knew of religion, of history, of myth, of poetry, even of unadulterated gossip. And from these drawers tumbled big thinkers, mythic figures, characters from other world – some to be venerated, many of them – for Snoo was a natural iconoclast – to be brought to their knees by a well aimed verbal swish to the back of the knees but all of them united by Snoo’s freewheeling thinking & glorious use of the English language.

One final observation I want to leave with you: however hectic, however glorious his imagination, however big a picture he wished to paint, he was always respectful of the needs & the demands of those who translated his words from page to stage. I am sorry that none of you here will ever hear his chortle as he sat watching & so appreciating actors bring his plays to life for the chortle was generated both by his relish for the frankly naughty but also his relish at the skills and the commitment of his comrades in arms.  I began by talking about his generous ideas & let me end by celebrating Snoo the man who was as big & generous as his ideas. I hope there are those amongst you who will be inspired by his Archive coming home to UEA to write joyous, freewheeling, audacious, iconoclastic plays; & I also hope that you will be inspired to produce his plays in years to come.”

Readings: Plays: A Girl Mad as Pigs (1967), Pignight (1971), Blowjob (1971), Darwin’s Flood (1994), Revelations (unfinished play). Newspaper cutting/ correspondence: Eastern News on UEA’s revue ‘A Girl Mad as Pigs’ (1967); Christopher Davis, Simon Callow and Sir Trevor Nunn.

About Snoo Wilson – Snoo graduated from UEA in 1969 and began writing in the same year. He was one of a handful of playwrights who reinvented British theatre in the 1970s and 80s. Together with Howard Brenton, David Hare and Tony Bicât, he founded Portable Theatre Company. Following his sudden death in 2013, the many obituaries confirmed that, at their exuberant, inventive and utterly original best, Snoo’s plays deserve their place in the country’s history of post-war playwriting.

Wilson’s career spanned more than 40 years. 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 on Mayakovsky’s 1929 satire (NT Connections 1995, 2016), and Reclining Nude with Black Stockings (Arcola Theatre).

About the Archive The Snoo Wilson collection forms part of The British Archive for Contemporary Writing at UEA.

As well as extensive notebooks, diaries, manuscripts and working papers, it 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 obituarist, which Wilson was working on before his sudden and untimely death in 2013. The material will play a crucial role in developing critical understanding of his life and work and represents a resource of major international significance. There are fascinating research possibilities for both writers and theatre historians documenting the last forty years of British theatre practice. UEA is honoured to be the custodian of this fascinating archive.

To arrange a visit, please email the Archives team Bridget Gillies/ Justine Mann or call 01603 59 3483

To read the full press release:

See also: The Stage and  The Observer


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