Burt Caesar

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Burt Caesar is a British actor, broadcaster and director for stage and television, who was born in St Kitts and migrated to England with his family as a child.[1] His wide-ranging career has encompassed acting in Bond films (Skyfall, 2012), stage performances including in Shakespearian roles,[2] and many plays for BBC Radio Four.[3] Caesar regularly works as a director and is an artistic advisor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). He is also a commentator on theatre and literature.[4][5][6][7][8]

Career[edit]

Theatre and radio[edit]

As a stage actor, Caesar has had roles that include in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (Birmingham Rep and Market Theatre, Johannesburg, with Janet Suzman),[9] as Capulet in Romeo and Juliet (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith), Macduff in Macbeth (St Barts, New York City International Festival of Theatre), as well as in productions of other Shakespeare plays such as Othello, The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar and The Tempest (Liverpool Everyman).[10][2][11] His other theatre includes Noises Off by Michael Frayn, Crusade (Stratford East), Athol Fugard's My Children! My Africa! (Watermill Theatre), Fanny Kemble, Blood Knot, Eden, James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield), In Self Defence, Caryl Churchill's Serious Money (Royal Court), Douglas Jerrold's Black-Eyed Susan (Oxford Playhouse, 1987), Judith, Carnival War (Royal Court), Sergeant Ola (Royal Court), Strange Fruit, and The Miser.[6][11] His performance as "Old Mack" in Errol John's Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, which opened in 2012 at the Cottesloe Theatre, with a subsequent tour in 2014, received widely positive notice, being described by Theatre News Online as "compelling in his choreographed smoothness" and by The Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington as "richly remarkable".[12][13][14][15][16] His 2015 performance in Timberlake Wertenbaker's Jefferson's Garden at the Watford Palace Theatre was also well received.[17][18][19]

Caesar has given acclaimed readings of Derek Walcott's long poem "The Schooner Flight" both on stage and radio.[20][21]

Caesar's radio work includes frequent performances in plays, including a dramatisation by Margaret Busby of C. L. R. James's novel Minty Alley, first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1998,[22][23] Biyi Bandele's 2002 dramatisation of Oroonoko by Aphra Behn,[24] Patricia Cumper's dramatisation of Andrea Levy's Small Island, broadcast in 2004,[25] and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida in 2005, the play's first radio production for more than 20 years.[26]

In August 2007, Caesar's Radio 4 programme To Sir, With Love Revisited, directed by Mary Ward-Lowery, about E. R. Braithwaite's 1959 autobiographical account of teaching at a school in the East End of London,[27] was described by The Guardian′s reviewer as "utterly charming radio".[28] Caesar's feature Black Students in Red Russia – which among other interviews included one with Jan Carew, author of the 1964 novel Moscow Is Not My Mecca – was chosen by the New Statesman as a "Pick of the Week"[29] when the programme was broadcast on Radio 4 (again produced by Ward-Lowery) in January 2009.[30][31]

Also that year Caesar presented Black Screen Britain, a two-part Radio 4 documentary series exploring how British film and television drama portrayed post-war African-Caribbean migrants and created opportunities for pioneering black actors.[32][33][34] He is a regular reader of poetry and short stories on a variety of programmes, including Poetry Please.[35][36][37] On the programme A Good Read in 2010, Caesar's choice of book was C. L. R. James's Beyond a Boundary.[1][38]

In 2011 Caesar presented a BBC Radio 4 programme about pioneering publisher John La Rose, founder of New Beacon Books, entitled What We Leave We Carry: The Legacy of John La Rose, which was produced by Julian May and featured contributions by Sarah White, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Margaret Busby, Susan Craig-Jones and Gus John.[39]

In 2017 Caesar played the role of Gloucester in King Lear in a productiion directed by Nancy Meckler at Shakespeare's Globe (10 August – 14 October).[40]

Film and television[edit]

Among films in which he appeared are Skyfall (2012), Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) and Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), Bad Boy Blues (1995), Britannia Hospital (1982), New Year's Day (2001), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The Amnesty Files (HBO), and Scoop (1987).

His television appearances include parts in Holby City (BBC), Casualty (BBC), Dalziel & Pascoe (BBC), The Bill (Thames TV), Prime Suspect (Granada TV), Prime Suspect II, Between The Lines (BBC), Albion Market (Granada), Revolver (Thames), The Professionals (ITV), Us Girls (BBC), Hard Cases (Central), We Are the Elephant, No Problem! (Channel 4), Girls on Top, Dancers, and The Cleopatras (BBC).[11] Most recently he appeared on BBC One in Death in Paradise.[41]

He is also sought after as a narrator for documentaries as well as for voice-over work.[10][3]

Directing[edit]

Alongside acting, Caesar has over the years directed regularly for both stage and television. In 1986 he directed Waiting for Hannibal by Yemi Ajibade, which opened at the Drill Hall, followed by a national tour,[42] with Judith Jacobs, Wilbert Johnson and others in the cast.[43] Among other productions he directed Sidepockets at the Theatre Royal Stratford East; Cloud Nine at the Contact Theatre, Manchester; Trish Cooke's Back Street Mammy (West Yorkshire Playhouse, 1991);[44] Eugene O'Neill's All God's Chillun Got Wings at West Yorkshire Playhouse (1993);[45] and Michele Celeste's My Goat at the Soho Theatre Company (1994).[46] Caesar was former Associate Director at the Royal Court Theatre.[6]

Film and TV drama he has directed includes, for the NT Archive, Remembrance by Derek Walcott and Welcome Home Jacko by Mustapha Matura, as well as numerous episodes of the BBC One medical soap opera Doctors.[6]

He is an artistic advisor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA),[47] where productions he has directed include Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brothers Size[48] and Yerma by Federico Garcia Lorca.[49]

His work as a tutor includes working with award-winning producer and director Tim Reid, founder of the Legacy Media Institute, on intensive filmmakers workshops both in the UK and the US, in partnership with the British Film Institute.[50]

Caesar is also a creative consultant at the Museum of London Docklands.[1][51][52] Discovering his family name in the papers of Thomas and John Mills, plantation owners in St Kitts, during the development of the exhibition Sugar and Slavery, Caesar said: "For all British citizens of West Indian origin the Mills papers are vital documents in the often hidden or ‘lost’ history of slavery in the islands. As someone born in St. Kitts, and now living in London, these papers are even more important. On a personal level, there may be a direct family connection: a ‘Caesar’ is listed in the Mills papers. And on the grander scale of historical legacy, they provide further evidence of the long established link between the West Indies and England. My fellow Kittitians and I are descended from survivors of one side of a brutal and profitable trade which always had London at its centre."[53] Caesar is the brother of filmmaker Imruh Bakari. Caesar has also been a critic and commentator on theatre and literature.[4][54][6]

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c A Good Read, BBC Radio 4, 30 March 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Burt Caesar" at BBBA Shakespeare.
  3. ^ a b "Burt Caesar" at IMDb.
  4. ^ a b "Theatre: Between the Lines: The actor and director Burt Caesar on Serious Money", The Independent, 28 October 1992.
  5. ^ "Linton Kwesi Johnson talks to Burt Caesar at Sparkside Studios, Brixton, London, 11 June 1996", Critical Quarterly, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp. 64–77, December 1996.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Burt Caesar" Archived 31 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine., profile at The National Theatre, 2012.
  7. ^ "GO TO Representation & Race in Shakespeare as Part of African Odysseys series @ BFI Saturday 16th April 2016", The British Blacklist.
  8. ^ David Somerset, "Race and Representation in Shakespeare. Burt Caesar, actor and presenter in discussion with actor Hugh Quarshie". Vimeo.
  9. ^ Ian Shuttleworth, "The Cherry Orchard, Birmingham Rep" (opened 27 May 1997), Financial Times review: "Burt Caesar puts his resonant voice to good use as Lebaka...".
  10. ^ a b "Burt Caesar" at Rhubarb.
  11. ^ a b c "Burt Caesar" at Birmingham Rep.
  12. ^ Rachel Halliburton, "Imperial divide, Theatre News Online.
  13. ^ Michael Billington, "Moon on a Rainbow Shawl – review", The Guardian, 15 March 2012.
  14. ^ David Benedict, "Review: ‘Moon on a Rainbow Shawl’", Variety, 15 March 2012.
  15. ^ Michael Coveney, "Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, National Theatre, Cottesloe, London", The Independent, 19 March 2012.
  16. ^ Roger Clarke, "A moon shining bright", Behind the arras, February 2014.
  17. ^ Michael Billington, "Jefferson’s Garden review – Timberlake Wertenbaker’s American tragedy", The Guardian, 10 February 2015.
  18. ^ Sarah Hemming, "Jefferson’s Garden, Palace Theatre, Watford, UK — review", Financial Times, 12 February 2015.
  19. ^ "Actors William Hope and Burt Caesar chat about Jefferson’s Garden", Theatre Voice, 13 February 2015.
  20. ^ "The Schooner Flight", BBC Radio 4. Radio Times listing, Issue 3594, 15 November 1992, p. 109.
  21. ^ "I'm Black So You Don't Have To Be...", King's Place, 19 October 2015.
  22. ^ "Minty Alley" (Afternoon Play), Radio Listings, BBC Radio 4.
  23. ^ Nigel Deacon, "BBC Radio Plays, Radio 4, 1998". Diversity Website.
  24. ^ "Oroonoko" (dramatised By Biyi Bandele), Drama on 3.
  25. ^ "Small Island", Woman's Hour/15 Minute Drama, BBC Radio 4.
  26. ^ "Troilus And Cressida", Drama on 3.
  27. ^ "To Sir with Love Revisited", Radio Times, Issue 4349, 16 August 2007, p. 135.
  28. ^ Elisabeth Mahoney, "Radio review: To Sir With Love Revisited", The Guardian, 27 August 2007.
  29. ^ Antonia Quirke, "Pick of the week", New Statesman, 8 January 2009.
  30. ^ "Black Students In Red Russia", BBC Radio 4, Wednesday, 14 January 2009. BBC Press Office.
  31. ^ "Black Students in Red Russia – BBC Radio 4 – January 2009". Soundcloud.
  32. ^ "Black Screen Britain", The Black Presence in Britain, 28 March 2009.
  33. ^ "Black Screen Britain", Culture Wise.
  34. ^ Episodes: "Reclaiming Our Image" and "Ambassadors for the Race", Black Screen Britain, BBC Radio 4, September 2009.
  35. ^ "Love and the Rest", Poetry Please, BBC Radio 4, 7 February 2016.
  36. ^ "Burt Caesar", Radio Listings.
  37. ^ "The Beautiful Thing" ("A short story about emigration, backstory and new beginnings by Kit de Waal. Read by Burt Caesar"), BBC Radio 4, 22 March 2015.
  38. ^ Tricia Wombell, "A Good Read: Cricket lovely cricket", Black Book News, 5 April 2010.
  39. ^ "What We Leave We Carry: The Legacy of John La Rose", BBC Radio 4, 11 January 2011.
  40. ^ "Summer of Love: King Lear Casting Update", Shakespeare's Globe on the Blog.
  41. ^ Series 5, Episode 4, Death in Paradise, BBC One, 28 January 2016.
  42. ^ "Waiting For Hannibal, 1986, By Yemi Ajibade. National Tour." Nitro Archive, 14 October 1986.
  43. ^ "Waiting For Hannibal", Black Plays Archive, Royal National Theatre.
  44. ^ "Trish Cooke" at David Higham Associates.
  45. ^ Irving Wardle, "THEATRE / The battles of Eric the Bold", The Independent, 7 February 1993.
  46. ^ "My Goat", Tripod.
  47. ^ "Artistic Advisory Committee", RADA.
  48. ^ Spring Season 2011, RADA.
  49. ^ "Review: RADA production of Yerma", Cherwell, 30 March 2013.
  50. ^ "Legacy Media and the BFI to offer fourth London Workshop in September 2016", Legacy Media Institute, 2015.
  51. ^ Graham Spicer, "London's Museum In Docklands Obtains Unique Slave Trade Archive", Culture24, 12 December 2006.
  52. ^ "Museum In Docklands To Lift Lid On London's Role In The Slave Trade", Culture24, 20 February 2007.
  53. ^ "London, Sugar & Slavery gallery reveals city’s untold history", Museum in Docklands.
  54. ^ "Linton Kwesi Johnson talks to Burt Caesar at Sparkside Studios, Brixton, London, 11 June 1996", Critical Quarterly, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp. 64–77, December 1996.

External links[edit]