British Black and Asian Shakespeareans: Integrating Shakespeare 1966–2018

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Author: Jami Rogers

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

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by Jami Rogers

Shakespeare is at the heart of the British theatrical tradition, but the contribution of Ira Aldridge and the Shakespearean performers of African, African-Caribbean, south Asian and east Asian heritage who came after him is not widely known. Telling the story for the first time of how Shakespearean theatre in Britain was integrated from the 1960s to the 21st century, this is a timely and important account of that contribution.

Drawing extensively on empirical evidence from the British Black and Asian Shakespeare Performance Database and featuring interviews with nearly forty performers and directors, the book chronicles important productions that led to ground-breaking castings of Black and Asian actors in substantial Shakespearean roles including:

· Zakes Mokae (Cry Freedom) as one of three black witches in William Gaskill's 1966 production of Macbeth at the Royal Court Theatre.

· Norman Beaton as Angelo in Michael Rudman's 1981 production of Measure for Measure at the National Theatre – the first majority Black Shakespearean cast at the theatre.

· Josette Simon as Isabella in Measure for Measure at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987.

· Adrian Lester in the title role of Nicholas Hytner's 2003 production of Henry V.

· Iqbal Khan on his 2012 production of Much Ado About Nothing – the first production with an all south Asian cast at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

· Alfred Enoch and Rakie Ayola as Edgar and Goneril in Talawa Theatre Company's 2016 production of King Lear

· Paapa Essiedu as Hamlet in Simon Godwin's 2016 production for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

With first-hand accounts from key performers including Joseph Marcell, Adrian Lester, Josette Simon, Lolita Chakrabarti, Noma Dumezweni, Rakie Ayola, David Yip, Ray Fearon, Paterson Joseph, Alfred Enoch, Rudolph Walker and many more, this book is an invaluable history of Black and Asian Shakespeareans that highlights the gains these actors have made and the challenges still faced in pursuing a career in classical theatre.

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