RBC Fellow Yvonne Brewster OBE edits new Jamaican play anthology
Yvonne Brewster OBE, graduate and Fellow of the College, has edited MIXED COMPANY: Three Early Jamaican Plays, published by Oberon Books, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence. The edition contains three of the finest early Jamaican stage plays - The Creatures by Cicely Waite-Smith (1954), Bedward by Louis Marriott (1960) and Maskarade by Sylvia Wynter (1970).
She spoke about the collection on Woman's Hour on Tuesday 7th August, the morning after she had witnessed countryman Usain Bolt win the Olympic 100 metres, and joined in the independence celebrations afterwards. The book launch takes place, in association with the Padmore Institute, on 9th August 2012 at New Beacon Books in north London.
Listen to Yvonne on Woman's Hour on iPlayer here
Yvonne Brewster came from Kingston, Jamaica, in the mid-fifties to study at Rose Bruford College and, when castaway on Desert Island Discs in 2005, she told Sue Lawley that she was the first black drama student in Britain. On her return to Jamaica she worked as a producer and presenter in radio and television, and as a drama teacher. In 1977 she co-founded The Barn Theatre in Kingston with playwright Trevor Rhone, who had studied also under Rose Bruford at the College.
On returning to the UK she continued to work as a director in all media until in 1985 she founded Talawa Theatre Company in direct response to her "recognition of the lack of creative opportunities for actors from minority ethnic backgrounds and the general marginalisation of Black peoples from cultural processes that was prevalent at the time..." (www.talawa.com).
Talawa continues to be Britain's primary Black-led theatre company and still has strong associations with the College. Graduates and Fellows of the College, Paulette Randall and Ben Thomas, were former artistic directors of the Company, and Thomas was a leading actor with Talawa for several years, notably directed by Yvonne Brewster in the title role of King Lear; and playwright Roy Williams OBE, graduate and Fellow of the College, wrote for the Company also. A number of Britian's finest actors have worked with Talawa including Norman Beaton, Cathy Tyson, Don Warrington and David Harewood; and Talawa playwrights Bola Agbaje and Michael Bihm have contributed to the College's New Writing season on a number of occasions.
Yvonne Brewster's most recent visit to the College was to direct Bellas Gate Boy by Trevor Rhone when the playwright was conferred as a Fellow of the College. The event, appropriately held in The Barn Theatre, was produced by Professor Kathy Dacre who also restructured the play, originally written as a monologue, for three actors all of whom were graduates of the College. The piece tells the story of Rhone's boyhood in Jamaica, his momentous journey to England, and his encounters as a student with his revered teacher, Rose Bruford.
Yvonne Brewster has worked extensively in theatre in the UK, mainland Europe and the USA, including Artist in Residence at the University of California Davis; served on the British Council's Drama and Dance Advisory Committee, the Gulbenkian Enquiry into Director Training, and on the Boards of the Black Theatre Forum, the London Arts Board and The Theatres Trust; received the Living Legend Award from the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem North Carolina, and an Arts Council of England Woman of Achievement Award; and in 1993 she received an OBE for Services to the Arts in the New Years Honours List.