Manchester International Festival: No End To Enderby
One of the highlights of the 2017 Manchester International Festival will be a new artists’ film, based on two of Anthony Burgess’s Enderby novels, which will be screened as part of an exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester between 30 June and 16 July. Details of this free exhibition are available here.
The film, made by the artists Steven Sutcliffe and Graham Eatough, has already been awarded a prize of £40,000 by the Contemporary Art Society. Sutcliffe and Eatough have worked closely with the International Anthony Burgess Foundation to develop this idea and bring it to fruition.
Titled No End To Enderby, the film adapts episodes from two of Burgess’s novels: Inside Mr Enderby (1963) and Enderby’s Dark Lady (1984). The Enderby novels chronicle the adventures of an anti-heroic poet who is involved in a close relationship with his poetic Muse. His dealings with flesh-and-blood women prove to be troublesome, which causes Enderby to lead a bachelor life in seedy rented accommodation, with only his poetic manuscripts and the Muse for company. His plan to wed a glamorous widow is doomed to failure, and he spends his honeymoon in Rome trying to write a long poem in the bathroom, while Vesta, his wife, awaits the consummation of her new marriage with disappointment.
Burgess described the genesis of his Enderby novels in an interview from 1988: ‘While I was working in Borneo in the late 1950s, I was suffering from malaria, had a slight delirium, and I went into the toilet and thought I saw a man sitting on the toilet seat writing poetry. I suppose the vision lasted a mere microsecond but the character remained, and I wrote four novels about this character whom I called Enderby – a poet, very squalid, masturbatory. The character has nothing to do with me, but his talent for writing poetry must to some extent be my own.’
The fifteen-minute film will be screened at the Whitworth Art Gallery in July 2017 as part of the Manchester International Festival. According to Stephen Sutcliffe and Graham Eatough, the film ‘will reference cultural forms drawn from a similar period of key interest to both artists,’ such as the BBC’s Complete Shakespeare series and the science-fiction aesthetics of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Blake’s 7.
The Anthony Burgess Foundation has been involved in a consultative capacity from the earliest stages of the Enderby project. Following a series of initial development meetings, the artists paid several visits to the Foundation to work with materials in the archive. Anna Edwards, the Burgess Foundation’s archivist, arranged for the loan of a Burgess typewriter from the Foundation’s collection, which makes an appearance in the film. The Foundation has also given advice about the poetry books which would have been on Enderby’s bookshelves, since part of the film takes place in Enderby’s study in Hove.
The four Enderby books, which are available in a single volume as The Complete Enderby, are widely acknowledged as classic examples of Burgess’s comic fiction.
Stephen Sutcliffe lives and works in Glasgow. Recent solo exhibitions include Tramway, Glasgow (2013) Rob Tufnell, London (2012), Stills, Edinburgh (2011), Whitechapel Auditorium (2010), Cubitt, London (2009), Galerie Micky Schubert, Berlin (2008) and Art Now, Light Box, Tate Britain (2005). In 2009 he was shortlisted for Derek Jarman Award (which he has been shortlisted for again in 2014) and in 2012 he won the Margaret Tait Award. In October 2013 his video ‘Outwork’ was part of Experimenta (the artists’ moving image screening program) at the London Film Festival. He has recently completed a residency at BBC Scotland.
Graham Eatough is a Glasgow-based theatre director who also works in visual art and film. Between 1992 and 2009 he was Artistic Director of Suspect Culture theatre company for whom he directed eighteen productions in venues and festivals around the world. He has directed work for 7:84, Tron Theatre Glasgow and National Theatre of Scotland, as well as performing in theatre, film and television. His theatre production of HeLa by Adura Onashile won Best Scottish Show at the Edinburgh Festival 2013 before its world tour in 2014, and he has directed a production of Alasdair Gray’s novel Lanark at the Edinburgh International Festival.