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Deep Are the Roots
Deep Are the Roots

Deep Are the Roots

Trailblazers Who Changed Black British Theatre


288 Pages, 5.43 x 8.50

Formats: Cloth, EPUB

Cloth, $36.99 (US $36.99) (CA $49.99)

Publication Date: July 2022

ISBN 9780750996297

Rights: US & CA

The History Press (Jul 2022)


eBook Editions Available

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Price: $36.99


The story of Black British theatre at its most radical, entertaining and profound - told through the lives of its great trailblazers.

In Deep Are the Roots, Stephen Bourne 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, too-often cited as the zenith of the role, 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, Buddy Bradley, Gordon Heath, Edric Connor and Pearl Connor-Mogotsi, all of them active in Great Britain, though some first found fame in the United States or the Caribbean. Then there are the groundbreaking works of playwrights Barry Reckord and Errol John 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 original research and interviews with leading lights, Deep Are the Roots is a powerful study of theatre’s Black trailblazers and their profound influence on British culture today.

Author Biography

Stephen Bourne is the author of Black Poppies, Under Fire and several other books on the subject of Black history. He is a graduate of the London College of Printing and received a MPhil from De Montfort University. He has been the recipient of research grants for Black British theatre from the Society of Theatre Research (1999) and the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation (2011).