Derrida/Benjamin: Two Plays for the Stage

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Project leader: Fred Dalmasso

In November 2001, Jacques Derrida, then the world's most famous philosopher, visited Loughborough to address over 300 people in the Sir Robert Martin Hall Theatre. It was an event attended by the Vice-Chancellor at the time, Sir David Wallace, and covered by The Independent newspaper.

It proved to be one of the last visits Derrida made to the UK, as he passed away in 2004. Almost 20 years later, Loughborough's Dr Fred Dalmasso from the School of Design and Creative Arts has published, along with Professor John Schad (Lancaster University), the world’s first-ever stage play on Jacques Derrida. The play appears in Derrida | Benjamin. Two Plays for the Stage (Palgrave).

Dr Dalmasso has not only co-authored the play but also directed it and acted in it, playing the part of Derrida himself. He first lent his voice to Derrida as part of Professor Schad's Inaugural Lecture at Loughborough in 2007. The play Derrida grew from there, being performed by collect-ifs, Dr Dalmasso’s own performance collective, in various venues across the UK, most notably the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.

The play, which is a thought-thriller, finds Derrida somewhere we would not quite expect to find him – not Loughborough in 2001, but Oxford in 1968. This, though, gradually becomes Berlin in 1930, which soon becomes Algiers in 1942, which soon becomes Nuremberg in 1946.

Derrida| Benjamin (Palgrave, 2021) is a volume that brings together two tragi-comic plays which mirror each other in a host of ways – above all, in the way that the central philosophical figure is exiled, or elsewhere – not quite himself. In Benjamin’s case, it is somewhere (or nowhere) near London in 1948 as Walter Benjamin’s words, life and death are set against the backdrop of a working-class council estate in post-war England.