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*Migration Histories > Caribbean > Culture and Festivals
* Black Theatre in Britain to 1945 
 
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Robert Adams in All God's Chillun Got Wings
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Robert Adams in All God's Chillun Got Wings. By kind permission of V & A Theatre Museum.
The history of theatre by Caribbean peoples in Britain is still being pieced together. Often little is known of individuals though some emerge from the possibly hundreds of Black people, African, American or Caribbean, who worked in the late Victorian and Edwardian entertainment industry as music hall performers, dancers, musicians and singers but also actors in the 'legitimate theatre'. Carlton Bryan was a Jamaican actor and comedian who appeared with the 'Native Choir from Jamaica' in 1906 and was in a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1913. Numerous stage versions of the novel had been performed from the 1850s onward, providing work for many Black actors. But others were beginning to write and stage their own shows like Ernest Trimmingham whose The Lily of Bermuda appeared in Manchester (1909) or Will Garland, author of A Journey in Negroland (1909).

Jamaican Una Marson arrived in 1932 and became a writer and political activist with the League of Coloured Peoples (LCP) and a BBC broadcaster, producing *Caribbean Voices. Her play, At What a Price, (with Horace Vaz) was first staged in collaboration with the LCP in 1933. Later plays by Marson produced in Jamaica included London Calling (1937) on student life in London, as well as the successful Pocomania (1938) about a young woman's growing fascination with Revivalist religion.

Robert Adams was born around 1900 in Guyana and died there in 1965. His achievement has been largely forgotten, yet he was a highly successful actor in theatre, films and on radio and television, as well as the founder and director of the Negro Repertory Arts Theatre, one of the first professional Black theatre companies in Britain. Their productions included Eugene O'Neill's All God's Chillun Got Wings, at Colchester in 1944. He also appeared in Unity Theatre's 1946 production of the play.

Unity, the Worker's Theatre, with branches in London and other large cities, produced theatre by and for working people. The London branch, based in King's Cross from 1937 to 1975, staged plays about Black experience and gave opportunities to many Black actors some of whom, like Lloyd Reckord, Carmen Munroe and Errol Hill, went on to become professionals. Adams appeared with other Black actors in Geoffrey Trease's Colony (1939) about the exploitation of sugar workers in a Caribbean island, while Carmen Munroe was in a production of O'Neill's Anna Christie by the West Indian Drama Group in 1959.

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Creators: Susan Croft

 
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