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Against Prejudice

Against Prejudice

‘Being a foreigner and a stranger are universal passports to British sympathy.’ Ira Aldridge, 1828.

Warwick University’s Multicultural Shakespeare Project and the Belgrade Theatre Presented Against Prejudice – Ira Aldridge in Coventry 1828 on 17th November 2016 at the B2 stage.

The Belgrade’s Singing Group were invited in 2016 to create songs and present them along side professional actors in the performance. The group also performed extracts from The Slave by Thomas Morton, one of several plays that Ira Aldridge programmed at the Coventry Theatre during his brief time as Manager there.

In 1828, when slavery was still legal throughout Britain’s colonies, the African American actor Ira Aldridge became Manager of the Coventry Theatre.

Ira was the first black actor to play Othello. And only two months after he was introduced to West Midlands audiences as ‘A Most Extraordinary Novelty, a Man of Colour’, he was running the theatre.

He was not yet 21.

This event honoured Ira Aldridge’s amazing achievement with a drama-documentary and a night-time procession to the site of the long-lost playhouse where he and the local community made history.

Professor Tony Howard explores the relationship between politics and Shakespeare in modern Britain and works with the University of Warwick’s Multicultural Shakespeare Project to gather information on the achievements of black and Asian artists.

It’s an astonishing story. Adrian Lester has just played Ira Aldridge in London and New York and reminded the world of the achievements of a very great actor. But the fact that at the age of only 20, Ira – young, gifted and black – was handed Coventry’s Theatre to run, is truly remarkable. He presented plays that attacked slavery and at the same time he raised the standards of a run-down company in crisis.Professor Tony Howard, Warwick University.

Learn more about the life of Ira Aldridge via our blog post here.