20 December 1924|
Port of Spain, Trinidad
|Died||10 July 1988
London, England, UK
Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, John was home-schooled, then began his career as an artist and journalist. Deciding to pursue a career in acting, he joined the Whitehall Theatre Group in Trinidad.
Following the Second World War, John moved to Britain in 1951 and continued to work in the theatre, appearing on the London stage in productions including Salome (1954), Carson McCullers' play, The Member of the Wedding at the Royal Court Theatre (directed by Tony Richardson, 1957), The Merchant of Venice (1962), Measure for Measure (1963) and Othello (at the Old Vic, with Leo McKern and Adrienne Corri in the cast). He had several small roles in films such as The African Queen (1951), The Heart of the Matter (1953), The Emperor Jones (1953), Simba (1955), The Nun's Story (1959) and Guns at Batasi (1964). He gained a major role in the BBC's A Man from the Sun (1956), alongside Cy Grant, Nadia Cattouse and Colin Douglas, and later had a significant role in the television series No Hiding Place (ITV, 1961) and in the five-part series Rainbow City written for him by John Elliott.
His first script written for a play was The Tout (1949), then in 1957 his Moon on a Rainbow Shawl won The Observer's Play of the Year award. It was produced at the Royal Court in 1958, and in 1962 in New York City. Over the half-century since then the play has achieved iconic status as a classic of Caribbean theatre, regularly staged internationally, in countries as diverse as Iceland, Hungary and Argentina. In the UK there have been notable productions at the Almeida Theatre (1988, directed by Maya Angelou), at Stratford East, and most recently at the Cottesloe Theatre, Royal National Theatre (2012) in an acclaimed production directed by Michael Buffong. The Observer′s reviewer wrote: "It is marvellous to report that, 55 years on, this play, in its original version, holds its own and seems fresh as the day it was written." On 27 May 1958, a version of the play that he had adapted for radio and entitled Small Island Moon was broadcast on the BBC's Third Programme; it was produced by Donald McWhinney and Robin Midgley, with a cast led by John himself and including Barbara Assoon, Sylvia Wynter, Lionel Ngakane, Andrew Salkey, Robert Adams, and Sheila Clarke (Boscoe Holder's wife and lead dancer).
Errol John's other writing included Force Majeure, The Dispossessed and Hasta Luego: Three Screenplays (1967). For television he wrote Teleclub (1954), and Dawn (1963) and was also the author of The Exiles, part of the BBC Wednesday Play series.
- The African Queen (1951) - Native Soldier (uncredited)
- The Heart of the Matter (1953) - African Policeman (uncredited)
- Simba (1955) - African Inspector
- Odongo (1956) - Mr. Bawa
- The Nun's Story (1959) - Illunga (African convert)
- The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961) - Kulu, Assistant to Rachel
- PT 109 (1963) - Benjamin Kevu
- Man in the Middle (1964) - Sgt. Jackson
- Guns at Batasi (1964) - Lieut. Boniface
- Assault on a Queen (1966) - Linc Langley
- Buck and the Preacher (1972) - Joshua
- Sheena (1984) - Bolu
- Chambers, Colin (2006). Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 407. ISBN 1-84714-001-7.
- Ray, Ed. Mohit K. (2007). The Atlantic Companion to Literature in English. Atlantic Publishers & Dist, 2007. p. 271. ISBN 81-269-0832-7.
- Encyclopædia Britannica.
- Kellaway, Kate, Review of Moon on a Rainbow Shawl", The Observer, 18 March 2012.
- "Errol John in 'SMALL ISLAND MOON'" (Third Programme, 27 May 1958, 21.15), Radio Times, Issue 1802, 23 May 1958, p. 39.
- "John, Errol (1924-1988)". BFI Screen Online. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- Errol John biography, compiled by Ronald C. Emrit.