THE iniquity of racial prejudice in the United States in the first half of the 20th century was vividly portrayed
THE iniquity of racial prejudice in the United States in the first half of the 20th century was vividly portrayed in this play based on the life of Paul Robeson, a multi-talented African-American who used his fame to further the cause of the civil rights movement at a time when discrimination against the black man was at its height.
In a monologue interspersed with familiar songs such as Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen and Ol’ Man River Tayo Aluko gave an inspired depiction of a man of principle. Robeson was prepared to risk his life — as well as a successful career — in order to draw attention to and condemn the economic, educational and social disadvantages that befell the black person.
Robeson won an academic scholarship to Rutgers University where he excelled at American Football. In an early indication of how he was received by his fellow students Tayo Aluko related how in the first “scrimmage” of a match Robeson, the only black player, was roughed up not just by the opposition, but his own side as well.
Aluko illustrated how Robeson stayed true to his beliefs of truth and justice throughout his life, sometimes at great personal cost. Tayo Aluko has won many awards and much praise for this performance not just in the UK but around the world.
It must help to empathise with a man you are portraying, as Aluko clearly does, and judging by the reaction of the Henley audience at the end, so did we.