After seeing the exellent Red Velvet at the Tricycle Theatre a couple of years ago, I was interested in finding out more about Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play Othello in the UK. I had my chance when the touring play The Tragedian, written and performed by Glen Wilson, came to Rich Mix in east london.
The play, performed to an effective and evocative modern-sounding soundtrack, is a compelling journey through Aldridge’s life, effectively evoking his two chief passions in life, acting and the injustice of slavery. As Aldridge, Wilson is a powerful presence, conveying his love of the theatre and the difficulties he faced throughout his life, fighting against the hostility of the London press and the inherent racism of the period, rising above adversity to promote racial equality. Aldridge’s story is just as relevant to the twenty-first century as it was in his own time, and this play is a must-see for all those with an interest in the history of theatre and in the importance of equality.