As soon as Taylo Aluko, in the guise of Paul Robeson, takes to the stage we know we’re in for a treat. He is a commanding figure and his stage presence is impressive. I had heard of Paul Robeson before I went to the show but didn’t know much more than that he was a singer, had sung Ol’ Man River and starred in the musical Show Boat. That didn’t even touch the surface; I was about to be educated.
It was an emotional story to watch and I came away richer for having seen it
Standing on the stage, surrounded by memorabilia from Robeson’s life, the story begins with him telling us about his wife, a constant presence in his life. He leads us through Robeson’s life journey with style and passion; through the years of success, through the years of being public enemy number one (to some) and on to the grief of losing his wife and finally to his decline in health. We are moved by Robeson’s battles against racism in his own country, the United States, and how he had only felt like he was truly accepted in Russia. We hear the speeches he delivered to try and make a difference. It was an accomplished and engaging performance from an actor and writer passionate about his subject.
Robeson’s songs were delivered beautifully, drawing us further into his story. Aluko has a wonderful baritone voice which is perfectly suited to this part and accompanying him is his faithful pianist Harriet, played with sensitivity by Ana Sofia Ferreira. After the final curtain we were treated to an opportunity to ask questions, the audience obliged and we learnt even more about Robeson and his life. It was an emotional story to watch and I came away richer for having seen it.