Kwame Kwei-Armah traces the life and work of Ira Aldridge, a black actor who defied racial prejudice to become one of Britain's finest Shakespearean actors.
When Aldridge first appeared on the London stage in 1825, he was enthusiastically received by the public but the critics hated him, The Times going so far as to say that he could not pronounce English properly, 'owing to the shape of his lips'. Here was a black man daring to break into the heartland of the British 'classics', which had hitherto been the exclusive domain of white actors.
But, undeterred by the racial hostility of the press, Aldridge became a perpetually touring player, an exotic 'star', honing his skills in the provinces and across Europe. In a career spanning 30 years, he became one of Britain's finest Shakespearean players, and had more honours showered upon him than any other actor of his time.