TheatreWhats On

Grade-II listed building becomes the first to house black theatre company Dark & Light and is honoured with blue plaque

In 1969, a Grade-II listed building became the first building to house a black theatre company in Britain.

Last weekend it was honoured with a blue plaque and those who helped set it up were in attendance at
the ceremony, writes James Twomey.

The historic building was Longfield Hall in Knatchbull Road, Brixton, and the theatre group based there was known as the Dark and Light, founded by Jamaican actor and administrator Frank Cousins.

Between 1969 and 1975, under the artistic directorship of Mr Cousins, the Dark and Light staged many productions at Longfield Hall.

The group also toured extensively throughout the UK, and showcased plays by Wole Soyinka, Amir Baraka, known as Leroy Jones, Eugene O’Neill and Athol Fugard.

The theatre company also staged several pantomimes with Caribbean themes like Anansi the Spiderman, and Brer Englishman.

Their pioneering work included forming a local youth theatre in the community.

Yvonne Brewster founded Talawa Theatre and directed the first Jamaican pantomime by DLT at Longfield Hall

To commemorate 50 years since the formation of Dark & Light, a blue heritage plaque was installed on Longfield Hall by the Nubian Jak Community Trust.

Celebrities and past performers were in attendance, and Frank Cousins flew over from his base in Spain to unveil the plaque.

An exhibition and a performance of some of Dark & Light’s best-known productions, featuring current actors that use the building, took place after the unveiling.

Mr Cousins said: “The Dark and Light was bound to happen.

“But how? Finding Longfield Hall was the beginning. Without premises you have nothing.”

Dr Jak Beula, chief executive of the Nubian Jak Community Trust, said: “Frank was a true visionary.

“An actor who talked the talk, then put his money and considerable talents where his mouth was, and walked the walk. I am so pleased he will witness his pioneering contribution to British theatre immortalised with a blue plaque in his lifetime.”

Carmon Munroe, renowned stage actor and former Dark and Light member, said: “Born of the greatest struggles and obstacles facing black practitioners, The Dark and Light Theatre came into being thanks to the courage and the compassion of Frank and Gaie Cousins”.

Catherine Hamilton, charity development manager of Longfield Hall Trust (LHT), said: “LHT is proud and excited to see a permanent acknowledgement in place at Longfield Hall to celebrate the achievements of the trailblazing Dark and Light Theatre company.

“We’ve been working for a while to develop a community engagement project to celebrate their story. It’s therefore fitting that in 2019, 50 years after Frank Cousins founded DLT, we have a permanent reminder of their presence here at the hall.”

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