June 28, 2013

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Writing about web page http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/bbashakespeare/

Welcome to the BBA Shakespeare blog.

On July 2nd a remarkable group of actors, academics, critics, directors and administrators gather at Millburn House in Warwick University to discuss the past, present - and perhaps even future - condition of Multicultural Shakespeare in Britain.

In the C19, Ira Aldridge came to Europe because at home in the USA he was 'unable to act on any stage', as Paul Robeson put it.

Ira played Othello and then many of the greatest roles in Shakespeare and, despite facing racism in London, he built an extraordinary reputation on the Continent as one of the very greatest actors of his age. In 1930 Paul Robeson followed him to London and played Othello - wearing the earrings Ira Aldridge wore, which had been given to him by Aldridge's daughter - who helped to train Robeson's voice for this, his first Shakespearean appearance. Robeson had come to London for the same reason - to avoid racism in New York.

Earlier this year, as it happens, Warwick gave an honorary degree to Earl Cameron, who was also trained by Miss Aldridge. In three weeks time the university's also going to honour Adrian Lester, who has just played Ira Aldridge in his wife Lolita Chakrabati's Kilburn Tricycle play Red Velvet. 'I had never heard of Ira', he said. Many things are forgotten, but they can come alive again, in unexpected shapes and patterns.

Our project is an attempt to put together the scattered history of the performances that followed in Aldridge and Robeson's footsteps -- across the UK and across the years. Scattered and often forgotten. Everyone knows that Olivier blacked up to play Othello at the Old Vic in 1964. Not so many remember that the playwright Errol John, the author of the masterpiece Moon on a Rainbow Shawl played the same role on the same stage in 1963 - and was critically slaughtered. This wasn't the great tragic hero Othello, said one distinguished critic who'd better remain mercifully anonymous - this was 'an immigrant'.

At the symposium, we hope to recover some lost great moments of this history, honouring the pioneers' achievements as they brought new voices into the world of UK classical theatre: British Black and Asian Shakespeareans creating what we're calling


But here too will be practitioners sharing their experiences and their skills, and there will be debates about styles, audiences, definitions, difficulties, and the prospects for the future of multicultural theatre in the UK. We hope to bring some of July 2nd's highlights to our new website, and soon.........

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Sue

    I would love to be there but will not be able to make it in the same way as I have had to forgo the crop rotation meeting on the 27th June this is also beyond my reach.

    I am still trying to understand the universal appeal of Shakespeare having been drip-fed it/him at school. My one and only love from my days at school is E M Forster and this is how it has remained thus far. I would like to widen my horizons as far as authors are concerned and live in awe of my sister who loves Shakespeare despite having attended the same school as me albeit two years down the line.

    29 Jun 2013, 04:13

  2. Anthony Howard

    That’s fascinating.

    Tate Britain has recently ncluded the painting “A Head of A Man” in ithe new re-hang of its coillection, and suggests that it’s a portrait of Ira Aldridge.


    What’s especially interesting is that it’s remarkably similar to many photographs taken in 1964 of Laurence Olivier as Othello at the Old Vic. Did Olivier see the painting, and use it as a model for his make-up – and for the physical stance?

    Tony Howard

    14 Nov 2013, 10:31

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