Alumni - Africa and the Caribbean
Rose Bruford College has an important connection with theatre in Nigeria.
The 'Romeo and Juliet' encounter between Ebun Odutola (class of 1963) and J.P. Clark who eloped to get married, featured in The News Nigeria
By Femi Osofisan
In the block of flats to which he was assigned,
J. P. Clark, a renowned poet, as well as a playwright, was one of the triumvirate that comprised Chinua Achebe (novels) and Wole Soyinka (drama). In 1982, he, along with his wife Ebun Odutola (a professor and former director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Lagos), founded the PEC Repertory Theatre in Lagos.
Funmilayo Sowunmi (class of 1962)
Worked with Wole Soyinka, and with Professor Ebun Odutola, (and later with Joel Adedeji) as Professor of Speech (Elocution and Phonetics) at the University of Ibadan.
John Ekwere (class of 1960)
Founded the Ogui Players, later the Eastern Nigeria Theatre Company (which features in the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: Africa).
Appointed Senior Producer, Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, Enugu, 1960-65; Deputy Director of Programmes, 1965; appointed Director of Programmes, Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, 1966.
Chief Information Officer, Ministry of Information, South Eastern State (now Cross River), 1970-75; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Cultural Affairs, Calabar, 1975- 76; appointed Director-General, Akwa Ibom Television Service, Uyo, 1983-87; appointed Managing Director, Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation, 1987-February 1989.
Joel Adedeji (class of 1962)
Professor of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan, 1975; Head, Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan, 1975-87; Visiting Professor, New York University, 1980; first African member, Executive Committee, International Theatre Institute, UNESCO, Paris; Executive Committee, International Federation for Theatre Research, UNESCO, 1983-86. He has been a prolific writer on Nigerian theatre with some 34 works.
Elsie Thomas-Nkune (Elsie Olusola) (class of 1960)
Elsie played the unforgettable “Sisi Clara” character in the equally unforgettable Village Headmaster, a television series created in 1964 by her husband Segun Olusola. The programme became the longest running drama series in African television history with the final episode shot in 1988. Unknown to many, Elsie also worked for the Voice of America.
Sisi Clara and the roses that got me in trouble
Femi Euba (class of 1965)
A Nigerian actor, writer and dramatist, publishing numerous works of drama, theory and fiction focusing particularly on Yoruba culture. After leaving Rose Bruford he appeared in many shows on the London stage, including the 1966 Royal Court Theatre productions of Wole Soyinka's The Lion and the Jewel (as Lakunle the Schoolteacher), and Shakespeare's Macbeth, with the late Sir Alec Guinness as Macbeth.
Femi Euba article in Wikipedia and from Encyclopedia.com
John Sorbah-Green (Class of 1967)
Graduated from Rose Bruford in 1967. He starred in plays in the BBC World Service -African plays series including Two African plays in December 1967 with Femi Euba and in The devil written by Femi Euba in September 1970 and also featuring Jeillo Edwards and Yemi Ajibade. BBC World Service - Africa - The history of African Performance
Tas Embiata (Class of 1999)
With roots in the Yoruba culture of Nigeria, Tas graduated from Rose Bruford with a BA in Acting in 1999. He later acquired a Masters in Applied Theatre from Goldsmiths, 2007-08. From 2010 he has been Managing Director at Purple Room Studios, an independent production / post-production company with a rapidly growing reputation for quality recording. In addition he is a workshop facilitator at Tender Education and Arts and a Learning Consultant and Globe Education Practitioner with extensive experience and responsibility for the development and delivery of Shakespeare workshops, both nationally and internationally.
see also Programme for In extremis.
Bernardine Evaristo OBE (Fellow)
British born, but to a father of Nigerian-Brazilian heritage. She trained at Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama (graduating in 1982) and later at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where she earned her Doctorate of Philosophy. She'd spent her teenage years acting at Greenwich Young People's Theatre but has gone on to become an award-winning British writer. In the 1980s, together with Paulette Randall and Patricia Hilaire, she founded Theatre of Black Women (see below), Britain's first such theatre company, formed at a time when there were limited acting opportunities for black women in British theatre and film. In the 1990s she organised Britain's first black British writing conference, held at the Museum of London, and also Britain's first black British theatre conference, held at the Royal Festival Hall in 1997. Bernardine was joint winner of the Booker Prize in 2019 for the novel Girl, Woman, Other. Towards the end of 2020 she was appointed President of Rose Bruford College, to take up the post from January 2021.
Bernardine was invested as a Fellow in 2018:
Janet graduated from Rose Bruford in 1959 and obtained a Master's degree in Communications (1979, in the USA). She worked for the United Nations Information Centre in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, before becoming Director of UNIC in Lagos, Nigeria. She is Director of the Ebunjang Theatre complex at Kanifing South. In 2012, she was one of five Gambian women honoured for their significant contribution to "the development of The Gambia in all aspects of life", receiving the "Award of Excellence".
Rhodesia / Zimbabwe
Born in Rhodesia he came to Britain in 1961 to play in the all-African musical, King Kong. He later trained at Rose Bruford, graduating in 1965. He was the first African actor at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he stayed for five years. He acted in the RSC production of Julius Caesar (1968) and in The Winter's tale (1969), and a production of Pericles (shown in his picture here). He left the RSC to found Temba Theatre Company which ran until 1993. He also had parts in Play for today (1970), Crown Court (1972), Cry Freedom (1987). He died in the UK in 2013.
Temba Theatre Company
Born in Sierra Leone, Anni graduated from Rose Bruford in 1971 and is an MA graduate of Anglia Ruskin Creative Writing. She is an actress, known for The Professionals (1971), Outland (1981) and Doctors (2000), and on stage, e.g. in Inua Ellams' Three sisters at the National. She is also a lecturer and director, and writer of the novel Breaking the Maafa chain.
Stratford East podcast: Focus on freelancers
Yvonne Brewster OBE (Fellow)
A Jamaican-born stage director, teacher and writer who studied drama at Rose Bruford College in the mid-1950s where she was the UK's first black woman drama student. She graduated from Rose Bruford in 1959, in which year she was also awarded a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. On her return to Jamaica she taught drama, worked as an announcer on Radio Jamaica, presented television programmes and, jointly with Trevor Rhone, another RB alumni, was a founder member of The Barn in Jamaica (1965). In the UK after a stint as an Arts Council Drama Officer she founded and was artistic director for twenty years of Talawa Theatre Company (1985). In 1993 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire for her work in British theatre. Similarly, in 2002 The Open University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate for her work in theatre. In 2004, Brewster published her memoirs, entitled The Undertaker’s Daughter: The Colourful Life of a Theatre Director. She also talks about her time at Rose Bruford College (which was not wholly enjoyable) in Building Britannia: life experience with Britain". Both books are in stock in the Library. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Rose Bruford College and the Central School of Speech and Drama.
A Jamaican writer, playwright and film maker who co-wrote, with director Perry Henzell, the internationally successful film The Harder They Come (1972). After a three-year stint at Rose Bruford College where he studied in the early 1960s on scholarship, he was part of the renaissance of Jamaican theatre in the early 1970s. Rhone participated in a group called Theatre '77, which established The Barn, a small theatre in Kingston, Jamaica, to stage local performances. This theatre was named after Rose Bruford College’s Barn Theatre, and one of his plays, Bellas Gate Boy (2008) partly depicts his time at the College in Sidcup. In addition to The Harder They Come (1972), his prolific work includes Smile Orange (1974) based on his play of the same name, Top Rankin′, Milk and Honey (1988), Genie Award winner and One Love (2003) a Cannes Film Festival favourite. Trevor sadly died from a massive heart attack in 2009.
Jamaica's Barn Theatre
"For more almost forty years, Jamaica’s Barn Theatre was a crucial part of the development of a Caribbean theatre that extended beyond the Europhile elite. When it began in 1965, there were scarcely any plays written by Caribbean playwrights to perform. By its presence The Barn encouraged the work of dramatists such as Dennis Scott, Ashani Harrison and Carmen Tipling, and above all the work of Trevor Rhone, with whom Yvonne Brewster enjoyed a close if sometimes tumultuous theatrical relationship".
"The men and women who started the Barn were shaped by Jamaica’s independence or the idea of it, though their spirit was as much shaped by the giddy youth culture of the sixties blossoming in London, where some were trained, as by developments in Jamaica where ska, reggae and Rasta were coming together in a not always lucid mix to create a sense of possibility."
Anton Phillips (Class of 1971)
A Jamaican-born British actor who graduated from Rose Bruford in 1971 and found success appearing in British television appearing as the first black actor in many TV series, including General Hospital, The Saint, The Bill. He remains best known for his role as Dr. Bob Mathias in the science fiction series Space 1999. His professional life has been dedicated to the promotion of black theatre and to that end Anton started a number of projects that significantly changed the profile of black and Asian theatre in Britain. These included the Carib Theatre Company (formed with Yvonne Brewster in 1980 and whose production of The Amen Corner by James Baldwin was the first black-produced and directed play to transfer to the West End of London), the Black Theatre Season (started in 1983), and the Black Theatre Forum, initiatives that were responsible for giving opportunities to many black and Asian writers, actors and theatre technicians. He was awarded the 2015 Edric Connor Trailblazer Award at the 10th Screen Nation Film and Television Awards.
Wyllie Longmore (Fellow) (Class of 1968)
Born in Jamaica and resident in the UK since 1961, Wyllie trained at Rose Bruford College as a mature student, graduating in 1968. Upon graduating, the reality of life as a black actor hit him: unless a part was specifically written for a black man, no one would hire him so Longmore turned instead to lecturing at Rose Bruford. He stayed for five years and then took a lecturing position at Manchester University in the early ’70s and he’s been based in the North ever since. Until 1981 he taught in the Drama Department of Manchester University and since then he has been with Leeds Theatre-in-Education Company. He won Best Actor at the Manchester Evening News awards for his performance in Athol Fugard's My Children! My Africa!, directed by Ian Forrest at the Octagon Theatre in 1995. He also directed the regional premiere of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun at the Contact Theatre, Manchester. In 2016 Wylie was invested as a Fellow of Rose Bruford College.
British born to Jamaican parents. After graduating from Rose Bruford in 1989 David appeared in Coronation Street in December 1992 and June 1993 as PC, and later Sergeant Bannen. He has also appeared in The Brittas Empire, 2point4 Children, Prime Suspect 5, The Knock, Grange Hill, The Bill, London's Burning, Tipping the Velvet, EastEnders, Doctors, and Holby City. His film roles include Formula 51, Broken, The Avengers (1998), The 51st state (2001) and Captain Phillips (2013) while stage appearances include Hiawatha, Leave Taking, The Basset Table, No One Writes to the Colonel, The Looking Glass, Downfall, Night and Day, Ticket to Write, Othello, One Love, Master Harold and his Boys and Twelfth Night.
He is part of BBA Shakespeare
see also: programme for The Lion, Talawa theatre.
Paulette Randall (Fellow)
A British theatre director of Jamaican descent, graduating from Rose Bruford College in 1982 when she and two fellow students – Bernardine Evaristo and Patricia Hilaire – set up their own company, called Theatre of Black Women in response to the lack of roles for black actors at the time. She was chair of the board of Clean Break Theatre Company in 2006–07, and is former artistic director of the Talawa Theatre Company (founded by Yvonne Brewster, another RB alumni). She was the associate director for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. She was appointed an MBE in 2015 for services to drama, and in 2016 was given a lifetime achievement award for her work as a director and playwright in film and TV at the inaugural WOW Creative Industries Awards, presented by the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre.
Patricia St Hilaire
Patricia St. Hilaire is a playwright, director, poet and academic. After graduating from Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama, Patricia founded the Theatre of Black Women with fellow students Bernadine Evaristo, and Paulette Randall, and was with this company from 1979-88. She then wrote and directed opera for young people as part of the Lilian Baylis Programme at the English National Opera. Between 1994-1999 she worked part time as a tutor for Women into Arts Management, at Birkbeck College, later moving into HR management .
"Theatre of Black Women (1982–1988) was Britain's first black women's theatre company. It was founded by Bernardine Evaristo, Patricia Hilaire and Paulette Randall upon leaving Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama, where they had trained as actors and theatre-makers on the Community Theatre Arts course from 1979 to 1982. The course was a progressive, innovative drama course aimed at producing individuals who would be equipped to create their own theatre and be a force for change in society. The company, based in London, was forced to disband in 1988 when Arts Council funding ceased.
Theatre of Black Women's aim was to produce plays by and about black British women at a time when parts for black women were almost non-existent in theatre. Their first three short one-woman plays were initially staged at the Royal Court Theatre as part of their Young Writers Season in 1982. These were Evaristo's Tiger, Teeth Clenched Not To Bite, Hilaire's Hey Brown Girl and Randall's Chameleon."
Performance poet, writer, dancer, dramatic, choreographer, Doris Harper was born British Guiana. After schooling in Guyana she attended Rose Bruford School of Speech and Drama (Sidcup, Kent), Avery Hill College of Education (Bexley) and Laban Art of Movement Studios where she studied English, Drama and Educational Dance. She has focused on teaching the history and culture of the Caribbean Diaspora through her art forms, and has won several awards for her performance poetry as well as the International Women's Year Award, New York, for her contribution to civic life in Brooklyn and The Bronx, and the Top Teller Award for story-telling from Yukon Community Arts Council, Canada. From 1976 to 1991 Doris worked in the Education Centre of the Commonwealth Institute, where she organised festivals and focus weeks. She also became Artistic Director of London Entertains, an annual festival of many cultures, which took place at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, and Covent Garden. She has also composed and choreographed for St. James Church, Piccadilly and the Lambeth Conference, Canterbury.