Steven Berkoff: Gorbals 1966
Street Level Photoworks, 14 July - 16 September
This never before seen body of work covers a period in the Autumn of 1966, when Berkoff was an actor with The Citizens Theatre, which at that time was directed by Michael Blakemore. In the days he had off from acting, he would be out exploring with his camera, using that time to photograph the environment around The Citizens.
He was fascinated by the the appalling decay of The Gorbals, which was waiting for the iron ball of the demolition workers. These photographs capture most of it just in time. Like many photographers he was drawn to slums and decay, ‘because these are the areas in which I was brought up.’
He recounts a memory of that time: ‘One of my favourite places in Glasgow was The Barras Market on Sunday morning, such a lot of fun. I actually acted in the small space next to The Citizens, called The Close Theatre, which I found quite wonderful to work in and I used to spend a few hours there in the afternoon after my sojourns around The Gorbals, to cook up my supper, which was a popes-eye steak which I bought from the butcher’s opposite. There was a lovely man who was a caretaker at The Close, who used to sing a particular song every afternoon, which I have never ever forgotten.
‘Oh, I’d like to have a home of my own,
Sitting by my own fireside,
And if you’ve only got a table and a chair,
It’s all yours and you’re welcome there.’
Steven had already begun to capture the old Jewish East End, so The Gorbals photographs became a very apt echo of what was going on in the slums of London. His London photographs are captured in the book ‘East End Photographs’, edited by Lucy Bell.
Best known as an English actor, author, playwright and theatre director, he was born in Stepney, London in 1937. After studying drama and mime in London and Paris, he entered a series of repertory companies and in 1968 and formed the London Theatre Group. His plays and adaptations have been performed in many countries and in many languages. Among the many adaptations Berkoff has created for the stage, directed and toured, are Kafka's Metamorphosis and The Trial, Agamemnon after Aeschylus, and Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. He has directed and toured productions of Shakespeare's Coriolanus also playing the title role, Richard II, Hamlet and Macbeth, as well as Oscar Wilde's Salome. Films Steven has acted in include A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, Octopussy, Beverly Hills Cop, Rambo, Under the Cherry Moon, Absolute Beginners and The Krays. He directed and co- starred with Joan Collins in the film version of his play Decadence.
Alongside the exhibition, Street Level produced a 'Photography on Screen' work for Regional Screen Scotland. In this special recording, Steven Berkoff offers a fascinating insight into his photographic series. This work can now be streamed below.
More Information: Steven Berkoff
With thanks to Stephen Margolis and Michael Mail.
Images: © Steven Berkoff