All-night epic performance of Gilgamesh

8th May 2023

An audience of over 160 people gathered in the JdP last Sunday through to May morning to enjoy an 8-hour all-night epic performance of Gilgamesh, under the direction of Oxford's Professor of Poetry, Alice Oswald, and with the support of a group of St Hilda's Fellows, Fiona Macintosh (Classics), Sue Jones (English), Margaret Kean (English), Georgina Paul (Modern Languages), and Marina Warner (All Souls).

Lying on blankets and cushions, with optional seats upstairs in the gallery, spectators were entertained by a cast of over 40 artists - storytellers, actors, dancers, poets and musicians, including seasoned professionals alongside hugely talented students from the University, Dartington School of Art and Oxford Spires Academy - who performed the twelve books of this ancient Babylonian epic poem about a man's search for immortality. In this immersive event, with its multiple shifts in tempo and style throughout the night, the audience was buoyed up by the sheer energy, wit, and beauty conjured by the artists. At 4.30am, the spectators became actors themselves as they literally pieced together the fragments from the final book set in the underworld, before being led in procession to the Pavilion to sing in the dawn and to enjoy a hearty breakfast. Those with enough energy then walked up to the bridge to hear Magdalen College choristers and joined in the Mayday revels.

The event was made possible by support from St Hilda's College Research Fund, DANSOX, and APGRD, and the amazing members of the College's Events Team who kept us all well fed and in check throughout the long night.

Photos by Joe Oswald