by Stephen Bourne
Trailblazers who changed black British theatre.
Deep Are the Roots celebrates the pioneers of Black British theatre, beginning in 1825, when Ira Aldridge made history as the first Black actor to play Shakespeare's Othello in the United Kingdom, and ending in 1975 with the success of Britain's first Black-led theatre company. In addition to providing a long-overdue critique of Laurence Olivier's Othello, Bourne has unearthed the forgotten story of Paul Molyneaux, a Shakespearean actor of the Victorian era. The twentieth-century trailblazers include Paul Robeson, Florence Mills, Elisabeth Welch, Edric Connor and Pearl Connor-Mogotsi. There are chapters about the groundbreaking work of playwrights at the Royal Court, the first Black drama school students, pioneering theatre companies and three influential dramatists of the 1970s: Mustapha Matura, Michael Abbensetts and Alfred Fagon. Drawing on interviews with leading lights, here is everything you need to know about the trailblazers of Black theatre in Britain and their profound influence on the culture of today.