Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Legendary Theatre Director Dies

Published:Saturday | February 6, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Lady Macbeth (Carroll Dawes) welcomes Macbeth (Robert Ghisays) on his return from the Victorian battle

Carroll Dawes, legendary theatre director, scholar and teacher, who is generally recognised as one of the most influential and innovative theatre directors Jamaica has produced, died early on Monday (on the eve of her 84th birthday) at her home in London, England, after a long illness. Her daughter, Gwyneth Dawes, was by her side.

One of the early directors of studies at the Jamaica School of Drama, Dawes oversaw the building of the School of Drama at its present location, produced its first curriculum, and formed its first student company, the National Festival Theatre of Jamaica.

A highly celebrated director of what are often cited as definitive stagings of some of the world's greatest plays (from Shakespeare to Ibsen to Brecht) seen in Jamaica, Dawes directed critically acclaimed productions of plays by, among others, Derek Walcott, Dennis Scott, and Wole Soyinka. She left Jamaica in 1977 and relocated to Nigeria, where she taught at several universities, including Ibadan, Ife Ife, and Calabar.

She retired in 1992 and settled in England, where she lived until her passing.

Dawes was born Carroll Cecily Morrison on February 3, 1932, in Hopewell, Hanover, to Cleveland Morrison, an education officer and former vice-president of the Jamaica Union of Teachers (now Jamaica Teachers' Association), and Vivienne Maud Morrison, a teacher.


After completing her education at the St Hilda's Diocesan High School in 1950, she won a scholarship to the newly formed University College of the West Indies. In 1955, she married Jamaican poet and novelist Neville Dawes, and the two had a daughter, Gwyneth, before their divorce in 1957.

Dawes would go on to secure her Master of Fine Arts in Directing and her Doctor of Fine Arts in Theatre History at the Yale School of Drama in 1971, and even before this, had built an enviable reputation as one of the most innovative and gifted theatre artistes in Jamaica from 1950 onwards.

In 1980, she was the recipient of the Institute of Jamaica's Centenary Medal in Theatre Arts.