Raising The Bar: 100 Years Of Black British Theatre And Screen

Episodes

TitleFirst
Broadcast
Comments
"A Long, Hard Road"20151110

"In the second of ten programmes tracing a century of black British theatre and screen, Lenny Henry focuses on the evolving depiction of African Caribbean society on popular television across fifty years.

He charts the journey from the overt racism of TV sit-coms like Love Thy Neighbour (which nonetheless was a great hit amongst black Britons, simply because it was one of the few places in the 1970s where black Britain was regularly depicted on the nation's TV screens) to more sympathetic programmes like Empire Road. By the time Desmond's hair salon opened on Channel 4, with Norman Beaton and Carmen Munroe in the leading roles, a much more realistic picture of African Caribbean Britain was taking shape on British television.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes."

"A Long, Hard Road"20151110

"Pressure, Conflict and Creativity"20151113

A Long, Hard Road20151110

A Long, Hard Road20151110

In the second of ten programmes tracing a century of black British theatre and screen, Lenny Henry focuses on the evolving depiction of African Caribbean society on popular television across fifty years.

He charts the journey from the overt racism of TV sit-coms like Love Thy Neighbour (which nonetheless was a great hit amongst black Britons, simply because it was one of the few places in the 1970s where black Britain was regularly depicted on the nation's TV screens) to more sympathetic programmes like Empire Road. By the time Desmond's hair salon opened on Channel 4, with Norman Beaton and Carmen Munroe in the leading roles, a much more realistic picture of African Caribbean Britain was taking shape on British television.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes.

African Accents20151119

"Lenny Henry investigates the sudden blossoming of new black British theatrical voices whose roots are not in the Caribbean but in Africa. From Nigeria via Peckham and Hastings comes the energetic talent of Bola Agbaje whose play Gone Too Far triumphed at London's Royal Court Theatre, winning an Olivier award in 2008 before being filmed for the big screen, with a slew of new work since. Writing is easy she tells Lenny Henry ...and, she says, it all came about only because she managed to squeeze a place on a Royal Court writers' scheme on the day applications closed.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes."

African Accents20151119

African Accents20151119

Lenny Henry investigates the sudden blossoming of new black British theatrical voices whose roots are not in the Caribbean but in Africa. From Nigeria via Peckham and Hastings comes the energetic talent of Bola Agbaje whose play Gone Too Far triumphed at London's Royal Court Theatre, winning an Olivier award in 2008 before being filmed for the big screen, with a slew of new work since. "Writing is easy" she tells Lenny Henry ...and, she says, it all came about only because she managed to squeeze a place on a Royal Court writers' scheme on the day applications closed.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes.

African Accents20151119

Lenny Henry investigates the sudden blossoming of new black British theatrical voices whose roots are not in the Caribbean but in Africa. From Nigeria via Peckham and Hastings comes the energetic talent of Bola Agbaje whose play Gone Too Far triumphed at London's Royal Court Theatre, winning an Olivier award in 2008 before being filmed for the big screen, with a slew of new work since. Writing is easy she tells Lenny Henry ...and, she says, it all came about only because she managed to squeeze a place on a Royal Court writers' scheme on the day applications closed.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes.

Caribbean Voices20151112

"In the fourth of ten programmes tracing a century of black British theatre and screen, Lenny Henry, himself the son of Jamaican immigrants who settled in the west Midlands, tells the story of Caribbean migration as reflected in the work of such playwrights as Errol John, and the poet Una Marson who first came to Britain from Jamaica in 1932.

With Michael Buffong, artistic director of Talawa Theatre Company, whose production of John's 1958 play, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, at the National Theatre was an acclaimed revival.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes."

Caribbean Voices20151112

Caribbean Voices20151112

In the fourth of ten programmes tracing a century of black British theatre and screen, Lenny Henry, himself the son of Jamaican immigrants who settled in the west Midlands, tells the story of Caribbean migration as reflected in the work of such playwrights as Errol John, and the poet Una Marson who first came to Britain from Jamaica in 1932.

With Michael Buffong, artistic director of Talawa Theatre Company, whose production of John's 1958 play, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, at the National Theatre was an acclaimed revival.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes.

Good Company20151116

"Lenny Henry investigates the sudden blossoming of black theatre groups in Britain in the late 1970s and 80s as new, second generation black Britons found their voices and created stages to express themselves. Most famous is Talawa, a theatre company founded by four renowned creative spirits, including Yvonne Brewster and Carmen Munroe, who applied for and were granted from the public purse £80,000 to stage The Black Jacobins, a play about Caribbean history, by the legendary writer CLR James.

Series consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes."

Good Company20151116

Good Company20151116

Lenny Henry investigates the sudden blossoming of black theatre groups in Britain in the late 1970s and 80s as new, second generation black Britons found their voices and created stages to express themselves. Most famous is Talawa, a theatre company founded by four renowned creative spirits, including Yvonne Brewster and Carmen Munroe, who applied for and were granted from the public purse £80,000 to stage The Black Jacobins, a play about Caribbean history, by the legendary writer CLR James.

Series consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes.

Mainstream and Multicultural20151117

"Lenny Henry charts the breakthrough of a suite of powerful new black voices into serious theatre during the 1990s. Including Kwame Kwei-Armah, Winsome Pinnock, Paulette Randall, and Roy Williams.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes."

Mainstream and Multicultural20151117

Mainstream and Multicultural20151117

Lenny Henry charts the breakthrough of a suite of powerful new black voices into serious theatre during the 1990s. Including Kwame Kwei-Armah, Winsome Pinnock, Paulette Randall, and Roy Williams.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes.

Omnibus: Part 120151113

"In April 1833, at the height of the anti-slavery debate, a young African-American named Ira Aldridge took to the stage of the Covent Garden theatre in London as the star of the latest production of Shakespeare's Othello. Two days later, the production closed, ostensibly as the result of illness, but amid howling reviews that decried, in deeply racist language, the elevation of a black actor to the role of Shakespeare's tragic hero. Yet Aldridge was a superstar, feted across Europe who settled in Britain and married a British woman.

In this first of two programmes, Lenny Henry traces the long and painful road that black British performers, playwrights and film-makers have travelled, from the overt racial discrimination of the 19th century, via the thinly veiled slurs that persisted through the first 70 years of the 20th, to today's more equal society. This week, Lenny talks to playwrights Mustapha Matura, Roy Williams, Lolita Chakrabarti and Kwame Kwei-Armah and actors and directors Carmen Munroe, Yvonne Brewster and Paulette Randall. As well as Aldridge's Othello, he hears how racial issues were reflected on TV from the Black and White Minstrel Show to Love Thy Neighbour and Desmond's, and in films like Horace Ové's Pressure.

Consultant: Dr Michael Pearce

Producer: Simon Elmes."

Omnibus: Part 120151113

Omnibus: Part 120151113

In April 1833, at the height of the anti-slavery debate, a young African-American named Ira Aldridge took to the stage of the Covent Garden theatre in London as the star of the latest production of Shakespeare's Othello. Two days later, the production closed, ostensibly as the result of illness, but amid howling reviews that decried, in deeply racist language, the elevation of a black actor to the role of Shakespeare's tragic hero. Yet Aldridge was a superstar, feted across Europe who settled in Britain and married a British woman.

In this first of two programmes, Lenny Henry traces the long and painful road that black British performers, playwrights and film-makers have travelled, from the overt racial discrimination of the 19th century, via the thinly veiled slurs that persisted through the first 70 years of the 20th, to today's more equal society. This week, Lenny talks to playwrights Mustapha Matura, Roy Williams, Lolita Chakrabarti and Kwame Kwei-Armah and actors and directors Carmen Munroe, Yvonne Brewster and Paulette Randall. As well as Aldridge's Othello, he hears how racial issues were reflected on TV from the Black and White Minstrel Show to Love Thy Neighbour and Desmond's, and in films like Horace Ové's Pressure.

Consultant: Dr Michael Pearce

Producer: Simon Elmes.

Omnibus: Part 220151120

"The 1980s were a time of political upheaval and deep changes to the way the state engaged with British society, but for black theatre, perhaps paradoxically, it was a time of a great explosion of talent and opportunity. As Brixton and Toxteth burned, a host of new and brilliant young theatre groups burst into life, some benefiting from the final largesse of the dying Greater London Council, wound up by act of Parliament in 1986. Thus Talawa was born with an £80,000 GLC grant to stage its first, landmark production which required a cast of 23 - but there were many others too.

On television, Channel 4 brought new specialist magazine programming for black viewers, quickly emulated by the BBC, and series like Empire Road found ready and growing popularity, while the films of Isaac Julien addressed issues of race and sexuality for both niche and mainstream audiences. By the 1990s and early 2000s, new black writing talent like Roy Williams and Winsome Pinnock were reflecting sharp social divisions, and the problems faced by black youth in Britain's inner cities. This, too, was the world that young British-Nigerian writer Bola Agbaje grew up in, and powerfully wrote about in her groundbreaking new plays.

Consultant: Dr Michael Pearce

Producer: Simon Elmes."

Omnibus: Part 220151120

Omnibus: Part 220151120

The 1980s were a time of political upheaval and deep changes to the way the state engaged with British society, but for black theatre, perhaps paradoxically, it was a time of a great explosion of talent and opportunity. As Brixton and Toxteth burned, a host of new and brilliant young theatre groups burst into life, some benefiting from the final largesse of the dying Greater London Council, wound up by act of Parliament in 1986. Thus Talawa was born with an £80,000 GLC grant to stage its first, landmark production which required a cast of 23 - but there were many others too.

On television, Channel 4 brought new specialist magazine programming for black viewers, quickly emulated by the BBC, and series like Empire Road found ready and growing popularity, while the films of Isaac Julien addressed issues of race and sexuality for both niche and mainstream audiences. By the 1990s and early 2000s, new black writing talent like Roy Williams and Winsome Pinnock were reflecting sharp social divisions, and the problems faced by black youth in Britain's inner cities. This, too, was the world that young British-Nigerian writer Bola Agbaje grew up in, and powerfully wrote about in her groundbreaking new plays.

Consultant: Dr Michael Pearce

Producer: Simon Elmes.

Othello Across the Ages20151111

"In the third of ten programmes tracing a century of black British theatre and screen, Lenny Henry uses Shakespeare's character of Othello to tell the story of how the Moor of the play has for nearly 200 years offered black actors a part to savour - and also provoked debates about who can play the role.

In 2009, Lenny himself took the role in a production by Northern Broadsides at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, and subsequently in London. It won him the Evening Standard newspaper's Newcomer of the Year award, and was generally acknowledged a triumph.

Yet nearly 200 years ago, in 1833, the black American-British actor Ira Aldridge (known as 'the negro tragedian') played Othello with the Covent Garden players for just two nights until deplorable racist reviews, objecting to this wretched upstart, forced the management to close the production.

Even well into the twentieth century, those 19th century newspapers' complaints about Desdemona being 'pawed' by a black actor were echoed when the great Paul Robeson took the role, and white actors in blackface have regularly played Othello right up to the modern era.

Featuring an interview with Lolita Chakrabarti, whose award-winning play Red Velvet, depicted Aldridge's Othello.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes."

Othello Across the Ages20151111

Othello Across the Ages20151111

In the third of ten programmes tracing a century of black British theatre and screen, Lenny Henry uses Shakespeare's character of Othello to tell the story of how the Moor of the play has for nearly 200 years offered black actors a part to savour - and also provoked debates about who can play the role.

In 2009, Lenny himself took the role in a production by Northern Broadsides at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, and subsequently in London. It won him the Evening Standard newspaper's Newcomer of the Year award, and was generally acknowledged a triumph.

Yet nearly 200 years ago, in 1833, the black American-British actor Ira Aldridge (known as 'the negro tragedian') played Othello with the Covent Garden players for just two nights until deplorable racist reviews, objecting to "this wretched upstart", forced the management to close the production.

Even well into the twentieth century, those 19th century newspapers' complaints about Desdemona being 'pawed' by a black actor were echoed when the great Paul Robeson took the role, and white actors in blackface have regularly played Othello right up to the modern era.

Featuring an interview with Lolita Chakrabarti, whose award-winning play Red Velvet, depicted Aldridge's Othello.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes.

Othello Across the Ages20151111

In the third of ten programmes tracing a century of black British theatre and screen, Lenny Henry uses Shakespeare's character of Othello to tell the story of how the Moor of the play has for nearly 200 years offered black actors a part to savour - and also provoked debates about who can play the role.

In 2009, Lenny himself took the role in a production by Northern Broadsides at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, and subsequently in London. It won him the Evening Standard newspaper's Newcomer of the Year award, and was generally acknowledged a triumph.

Yet nearly 200 years ago, in 1833, the black American-British actor Ira Aldridge (known as 'the negro tragedian') played Othello with the Covent Garden players for just two nights until deplorable racist reviews, objecting to this wretched upstart, forced the management to close the production.

Even well into the twentieth century, those 19th century newspapers' complaints about Desdemona being 'pawed' by a black actor were echoed when the great Paul Robeson took the role, and white actors in blackface have regularly played Othello right up to the modern era.

Featuring an interview with Lolita Chakrabarti, whose award-winning play Red Velvet, depicted Aldridge's Othello.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes.

Post-Black20151120

Pressure, Conflict and Creativity20151113

The Big Time20151109

"In the first of ten programmes tracing a century of black British theatre and screen, Lenny Henry begins with the breakthrough moment when Kwame Kwei-Armah's celebrated tragedy Elmina's Kitchen, set on so-called Murder Mile in Hackney, was staged first at the National Theatre to great acclaim in 2003, and then - a first for a black British play - received a major West End transfer to the Garrick Theatre in 2005.

In this programme, Lenny talks to the actor, singer, playwright and now theatre artistic director, Kwame Kwei-Armah about that key moment in his career, and in the history of the black British stage; a moment described at the time by the Daily Telegraph as 'boom-time for black theatre'.

Elmina's Kitchen features an all-black cast of characters and is set in a Caribbean café in London,

where family ties, gang violence, inter-generational conflict, tenderness and seething anger all mix in a classic story of jealousy, loyalty, masculinity and betrayal.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes."

The Big Time20151109

The Big Time20151109

In the first of ten programmes tracing a century of black British theatre and screen, Lenny Henry begins with the breakthrough moment when Kwame Kwei-Armah's celebrated tragedy Elmina's Kitchen, set on so-called Murder Mile in Hackney, was staged first at the National Theatre to great acclaim in 2003, and then - a first for a black British play - received a major West End transfer to the Garrick Theatre in 2005.

In this programme, Lenny talks to the actor, singer, playwright and now theatre artistic director, Kwame Kwei-Armah about that key moment in his career, and in the history of the black British stage; a moment described at the time by the Daily Telegraph as 'boom-time for black theatre'.

Elmina's Kitchen features an all-black cast of characters and is set in a Caribbean café in London,

where family ties, gang violence, inter-generational conflict, tenderness and seething anger all mix in a classic story of jealousy, loyalty, masculinity and betrayal.

Series Consultant Michael Pearce

Producer Simon Elmes.