Yvonne Brewster

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Yvonne Jones Brewster[1] OBE (née Clarke;[2] born 7 October 1938) 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.[3]


Born in Kingston, Jamaica,[4] 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[3] - and at the Royal Academy of Music, where she received a distinction in Drama and Mime.[5] She returned to Jamaica to teach Drama and in 1965 she also jointly founded (with Trevor Rhone) The Barn in Kingston, Jamaica's first professional theatre company.[6]

Upon her return to England she worked extensively in radio, television, and directing for stage productions. Between 1982 and 1984, she was Drama Officer at the Arts Council of Great Britain.[5] In 1985 she co-founded Talawa Theatre Company with Mona Hammond, Carmen Munroe and Inigo Espejel,[7] using funding from the Greater London Council (then led by Ken Livingstone). Brewster was Talawa's artistic director until 2003,[8] directing a production of C. L. R. James's play The Black Jacobins in 1986 at the Riverside Studios as the first play to be staged by the black-led company, with Norman Beaton in the principal role of Toussaint L'Ouverture.[9] Another landmark came in 1991 when she directed the first all-black production of William Shakespeare`s Antony and Cleopatra, starring Doña Croll and Jeffery Kissoon.[10]

Brewster 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.[5] 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] In 2018 she published Vaulting Ambition: Jamaica's Barn Theatre 1966–2005.[15]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Reckord,"Jamaica's gifts to British theatre", Jamaica Gleaner, 15 March 2009.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b Simon Reade, "Pioneer with a vision of black theatre", New Straits Times, 23 August 1992.
  4. ^ Profile of Yvonne Brewster at 100 Great Black Britons.
  5. ^ a b c "Biography - Yvonne Brewster", Historical Geographies, 14 September 2011.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Black & Asian Performance in Britain 1970 onwards – Talawa Theatre Company". V&A.
  8. ^ Nosheen Iqbal, "Talawa theatre company: the fights of our lives", The Guardian, 29 May 2011.
  9. ^ Yvonne Brewster, "Directing The Black Jacobins", Discovering Literature: 20th century, British Library, 7 September 2017). Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Antony & Cleopatra: A Theatre First", Talawa.
  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. ^ "Vaulting ambition", JamaicaTradingNetwork, 31 March 2018.

External links[edit]