A 19th-century Richard of whom I knew nothing….
Born in New York in 1807, Aldridge emigrated to England at the age of 17. Whilst considered a distinguished Shakespearean actor, Londoners did not take as well to the idea of the world’s first black Othello, with a critic for The Times writing: “Owing to the shape of his lips it is utterly impossible for him to pronounce English.” Regardless, Aldridge found fame and acceptance on tour in the UK and around Europe, heralded for his performances in Othello, Macbeth and Richard III – for which he wore pale make-up and a wig.
He was so well respected around Europe at the time of his death, in Poland in 1867, that he was given a state funeral.
Red Velvet, the story of Ira Aldridge, is currently running at the Garrick Theatre.
From What’s On Stage, London, 2nd February 2016 http://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/the-original-theatre-celebrities_39635.html