The Belgrade Theatre has teamed up with the University of Warwick’s Multicultural Shakespeare Project, The Coventry City of Culture Bid 2021 and the Being Human Festival to present, Against Prejudice: Ira Aldridge in Coventry 1828, honouring the remarkable achievements of the African-American actor Ira Aldridge this November.
Professor Anthony Howard of the University of Warwick’s Multicultural Shakespeare Project said,
“It's stunning and truly moving to see so many people from so many organisations, so many generations, and so many parts of Britain coming together in honour of a great man of colour and a forgotten moment in Coventry's history. This dream casting is a testament to the importance of Ira Aldridge's mission, especially now.”
The event is a celebration to honour Ira Aldridge’s amazing achievement with a drama-documentary and extracts from the shows he programmed in the city of Coventry, including Othello. Leading professional actors will be joined by performers from Coventry’s youth theatres and community choirs.
The cast includes RSC actors Ray Fearon, Rakie Ayola and Matt Costain, alongside the Belgrade's Black Youth Theatre and community choir who will bring alive an astonishing forgotten moment in the history of British Theatre and the fight against slavery.
Ira Aldridge will be played by RSC Associate Artist Ray Fearon. He is one of the UK's leading actors and one of the best Shakespeareans of his generation who has most recently played Macbeth at Shakespeare's Globe. Leading roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) include Romeo, Othello, Pericles and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar. In 1999 Fearon became the first black actor to play Othello on the RSC's main stage in Stratford- upon-Avon since the American actor and singer Paul Robeson in 1959.
Rakie Ayola’s Shakespeare credits include Paulina in Winter’s Tale for the RSC, Ariel and Ophelia at the Birmingham Rep for Bill Alexander and most recently played Regan in Don Warrington’s black-led King Lear.
Matt Costain played multiple roles in Michael Boyd’s The Histories cycle at the RSC from 2006-2008. He has also appeared at the National Theatre (Warhorse) Shakespeare's Globe (Macbeth) and the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
The event, as well as featuring some of the best acting talent of this generation will be supported by guest of honour Earl Cameron the great Caribbean film, stage and television star who lives in Kenilworth and acted on Coventry's stages in the 1940s and '50s. He was taught during his early years by Ira Aldridge's daughter.
Following the event the audience will be invited to join the cast in a procession of lights and songs, to the site of the long-lost theatre, to lay flowers in tribute to this extraordinary person.
The event is presented by Warwick University’s Multicultural Shakespeare Project, the Belgrade Theatre and supported by Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 Bid and the Being Human Festival.
Against Prejudice: Ira Aldridge in Coventry 1828 will take place at 7pm on Thurs 17 November. Tickets are FREE and must be booked in advance by calling the Belgrade’s Box Office team on 024 7655 3055 or visit www.belgrade.co.uk
What: Against Prejudice: Ira Aldridge in Coventry 1828
When: Thursday November 17th: on the Belgrade Theatre Coventry's B2 stage at 19:00
For the background story see: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/13/black-theatre-ira-aldridge-coventry-slavery
FREE but reservation essential as spaces are limited: http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/against-prejudice-ira-aldridge-in-coventry-85105
Notes to editors:
Photo credit: Othello 1999: Othello and Iago. Copyright: RSC
Ray Fearon bio:
Ray Fearon was born in London and trained at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama, where he played the title role in Othello and Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost. He was awarded the Carlton Hobbs Radio Award and the George Benson Award for his portrayal of Othello at the National Theatre while still at Rose Bruford. Ray Fearon is an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Fearon was the first black actor to play Othello on the main RSC stage, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. His non-Shakespearean classical credits include Charles Surface in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The School for Scandal at the Liverpool Everyman in 1992. Fearon also played Pierre in Ian McDiarmid's production of Thomas Otway's Venice Preserv'd at the Almeida Theatre in 1995. He played Brachiano in Gale Edwards's production of John Webster's The White Devil in 1996 and the Marquis of Posa in Schiller's Don Carlos in 1999 for the RSC. He played Othello in scenes from the play directed by Gregory Doran in the 2004 Michael Wood documentary In Search of Shakespeare. Fearon won the Best Actor at the Manchester Evening News Awards for his performance in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun in 2010 and Best Actor in a Visiting Production at the 2012 Manchester Theatre Awards for his performance of Mark Antony in Julius Caesar.
Alex Buxton: Media Relations Manager, University of Warwick
Tel: 02476 150423
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