This one man theatre piece was a superb review of the life of Paul Robeson. The sub-title, ‘A Life with Songs’ is apt as Tayo Aluka is an excellent singer as well.
Paul Robeson rose to fame because of his singing voice but his increasingly vocal criticism of the US government brought him difficulties in later life. His socialism along with his views on racial discrimination ensured he rubbed up against the authorities. It was his views on the Soviet Union that did the most damage. By saying what he thought was impressive about the communist system he was branded unpatriotic and constraints were put on his travel and movements. From 1949 onwards his career suffered.
Interestingly, Robeson forged a bond with Welsh miners when in the UK in the 40s. He made a film here called ‘The Proud Valley’ which I saw on television as a boy without realising the significance of the actor playing the lead role.
Tayo Aluka is a commanding presence on the stage in a play that he also wrote. He makes the most of the props which furnish the stage around him; photo frames, flags and artefacts of a life are called upon as he relates the rise and fall of his career. Robeson’s personal life is dealt with briefly; it seems he had multiple relationships, some of them overlapping.
‘Call Mr Robseon’ sent me off to learn more about this remarkable man. This is why Tayo Aluka’s play is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?