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Body and Gesture in Derek Walcott’s Theatre

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 February 2021

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Reflecting on Derek Walcott’s early relationship with movement, dance and ritual, this article sheds light on the centrality of embodied memory in Walcott’s work for the stage and reflects on the relationship between memory and materiality in his epistemology of performance. Walcott’s ideas shaped his approach to dramaturgy in the late 1950s and position his work in relation to global debates around materialism (Brecht) and ritualism (Grotowski) in the theatre. A discussion of two plays, Dream on Monkey Mountain and Pantomime, examines the use of gestural language in specific performances of each. Such an approach demonstrates that the importance of embodied memory, as reflected in the staging of these plays, relates to certain Afro-Caribbean belief systems, which have exerted much influence on Walcott’s work. The article also emphasizes how Walcott’s theatre functions as a decolonial praxis that fosters the emergence of empowered subjectivities and Africanist modes of humanness that challenge the cultural order of colonialism. Jason Allen-Paisant is a lecturer in Caribbean Poetics and Decolonial Thought at the University of Leeds, and Director of the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. He is currently at work on the monograph Staging Black Futures in the Twenty-First Century.

Research Article
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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press