Paul Robeson is one of the towering figures of the civil rights movement, and the struggle for justice. Tayo Aluko has written and performs an outstanding tribute and reaffirmation of Robeson's work and his place in human history. Combining story-telling with singing both of the highest order, this play is one of the hidden gems of the festival. Its moving, uplifting and life affirming, a celebration of the struggle for justice.
It deserves to be a huge success.
Paul Robeson had one of the great voices of early recorded music. He filled out capacity venues all over the world in the first half of the twentieth century, and was feted by the rich and famous
And he was a black American, the son of a slave. His story is a story of the fight for freedom and equality, for respect not just for himself, but for a people. He was one of the first artists to refuse to play to segregated audiences in the USA. He faced the full fury of white America on the frontline of what became the civil rights movement. And he was a member of the communist party, a legal but vilified organisation. Targetted by supremacists, Robeson was dragged before the McCarthy witchhunt trials, denounced as anti-American, had his passport removed, and was prevented from singing in public and earning a living for over a decade.
Watching this piece, you are reminded of just how extraordinary it is that America has its first black president. It is a very long way from the trials and tribulations faced by Robeson in our lifetime.
Tayo Aluko has written a stunning piece of musical theatre.It pays tribute to Robeson the freedom fighter, and recovers his place in the pantheon of great American singers. His was a voice first among equals, and to hear again his songs and feel the power of the voice makes for a moving and wonderful experience indeed.
Using a variety of mementos strewn around the stage, old photos, books, reviews, and some clever original recorded soundtracks, this is high quality drama, first class singing, and all accompanied by the sensitive piano of Michael Conliffe who expertly fills the places in between.
In a hot, sweaty venue, Call Mr Robeson came alive and offered a remarkable evening's entertainment. This piece reaffirms Robeson's place in black history, and suggests that Tayo Aluko is a prodigious talent himself.
Go and see it. Be uplifted, be inspired and be informed. For this piece has it all. It really is a hidden gem which deserves to be hidden from history no more.
Reviewed by mike fitzgerald 09 August