Yvonne Brewster

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Yvonne Brewster OBE (born 7 October 1938), née Clarke,[1] is a Jamaican-born stage director, teacher and writer. She also co-founded the theatre companies Talawa in the UK and The Barn in Jamaica.[2]


Born in Kingston, Jamaica,[3] Yvonne Brewster went to the UK to study drama in the mid-1950s at the Rose Bruford College, where she was the UK's first Black woman drama student.[2] Brewster also studied at Royal Academy of Music, where she received a distinction in Drama and Mime.[4] She returned to Jamaica to teach drama and in 1965 she jointly founded (with Trevor Rhone) The Barn in Kingston, Jamaica's first professional theatre company.[5]

Upon her return to England she worked extensively in radio, television, and started directing stage productions. Between 1982 and 1984, she was Drama Officer at the Arts Council of Great Britain.[4] In 1985 she co-founded Talawa Theatre Company with Mona Hammond, Carmen Munroe and Inigo Espejel,[6] using funding from the Greater London Council (then led by Ken Livingstone). Brewster was Talawa's artistic director until 2003.[7]Productions that Brewster has directed with Talawa include The Black Jacobins by Trinidadian historian C L R James, and tells the story of the Haitian Revolution. Yvonne Brewster recounts how her groundbreaking production of the play in 1986 contributed to the development of black British theatre.[8] In 1991 she directed the first all black production of Shakespeare`s Antony and Cleopatra with Dona Croll portraying Cleopatra.[9]In an interview with David Jays of The Guardian in 1st of February 2016, Brewster acknowledges "No one was offering black actors Shakespeare so we staged King Lear. Don Warrington played Lear and Mona Hammond played the fool.[10] She is a patron of the Clive Barker Centre for Theatrical Innovation.[11]


In 1993, she was awarded an Order of the British Empire for Services to the Arts in the Queen's New Years Honours list; and in 2001 she was granted an honorary doctorate from the Open University. In 2005, the University of London's Central School of Speech and Drama conferred an honorary fellowship on Brewster in acknowledgment of her involvement in the development of British theatre.[4] In 2013 she was named one of BBC's 100 Women.[12]


In 2004, Brewster published her memoirs, entitled The Undertaker’s Daughter: The Colourful Life of a Theatre Director (Arcadia Books). She has also edited five collections of plays, including Barry Reckord's For the Reckord (Oberon Books, 2010)[13] and Mixed Company: Three Early Jamaican Plays, published by Oberon Books in 2012.[14]Yvonne has edited five volumes of plays written by black playwrights. In 2002 The Open University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate for her work in theatre. Her book on the Barn Theatre 'Vaulting Ambition' was published in October 2017.[15] Brewster has now been included in the Routledge Performance Archive[16]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Rodreguez King-Dorset, Black British Theatre Pioneers: Yvonne Brewster and the First Generation of Actors, Playwrights and Other Practitioners, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014, p. 18.
  2. ^ a b Simon Reade, "Pioneer with a vision of black theatre", New Straits Times, 23 August 1992.
  3. ^ Profile of Yvonne Brewster at 100 Great Black Britons.
  4. ^ a b c "Biography - Yvonne Brewster", Historical Geographies, 14 September 2011.
  5. ^ Notes on contributors, in Geoffrey V. Davis, Anne Fuchs (eds), Staging New Britain: Aspects of Black and South Asian British Theatre Practice, Brussels: P.I.E.-Peter Lang, 2006, p. 337.
  6. ^ "Black & Asian Performance in Britain 1970 onwards - Talawa Theatre Company". V&A.
  7. ^ Nosheen Iqbal, "Talawa theatre company: the fights of our lives", The Guardian, 29 May 2011.
  8. ^ Yvonne Brewster,Directing The Black Jacobins, Published: 7 Sep 2017. Retrieved on 2019-02-05
  9. ^ Yvonne Brewster,[http://www.talawa.com/articles/antony-cleopatra-a-theatre-first "1991 A black Antony and Cleopatra: A theatre first"],retrieved on 2019-02-05
  10. ^ David Jays, "Interview with Yvonne Brewster:No one was offering black actors Shakespeare...","The Guardian", 1st February,2016. Retrieved on 2019-02-05
  11. ^ "Patron of the Clive Barker Centre – Yvonne Brewster OBE", Clive Barker Centre for Theatrical Innovation.
  12. ^ "100 Women: Who took part?" BBC News, 22 November 2013.
  13. ^ "Yvonne Brewster - Reckord Celebrations", News - Talawa Theatre Company, 7 September 2012.
  14. ^ "RBC Fellow Yvonne Brewster OBE edits new Jamaican play anthology", Rose Bruford College, 9 August 2012.
  15. ^ Yvonne Brewster ,"Directing The Black Jacobins", Published: 7 Sep 2017. Retrieved on 2019-02-05
  16. ^ An Interview with Yvonne Brewster,[1], 2019

External links[edit]