Just An Ordinary Lawyer tells the story of Britain’s first black judge at the Belgrade Theatre

Just An Ordinary Lawyer tells the story of Britain's first black judge at the Belgrade Theatre

Acclaimed theatre-maker Tayo Aluko will shine a spotlight on the fascinating story of Britain’s first black judge in a new play coming to the Belgrade Theatre this spring. Showing in Coventry for one day only on Saturday 19 May, Just An Ordinary Lawyer follows the true story of singer, cricketer and barrister Tunji Sowande.

After leaving behind his native Nigeria, Sowande first arrived in London in 1945 to study law and pursue his interest in music. In both endeavours, he proved remarkably successful, quickly rising through the ranks as a well-respected barrister to become not only the first black Head of Chambers in the UK, but also the country’s first (part-time) black judge.

Meanwhile, his powerful baritone voice earned him a strong reputation as a concert soloist – a talent he also put to use in charity performances and to entertain the residents of elderly care homes. A keen cricketer, he was also a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, known as “the home of cricket”.

Following his multi-award-winning international hit show Call Mr. Robeson, writer and performer Tayo Aluko brings to life another “brilliantly put together history lesson delivered as art” in this brand new, one-man show, imagining Sowande’s private musings as looks back on his life in an undefined setting.

As the UK celebrates 70 years since the arrival of the Empire Windrush amidst controversy around the implementation of recent immigration policy, Just An Ordinary Lawyer’s exploration of charged subjects like imperialism, colonialism and black people’s struggles for freedom, justice and human rights at home and abroad feel particularly timely.

Yet what is particularly interesting is Sowande’s apparent political neutrality amidst the difficulties that he and others like him faced. Far from being outspoken about policy and the racism he faced, Sowande prefers to simply do his job, and spend his free time watching sports – although he nonetheless does his bit to spread a hopeful message of peace and love via the medium of music.

Taking the form of an accessible and engaging “play with songs”, Just An Ordinary Lawyer offers a moving, insightful and riveting journey inside the mind of a man at once determinedly ordinary in his attitudes, and decidedly extraordinary in his achievements.

A commanding presence, Aluko populates the stage with figures from throughout Sowande’s illustrious career, showcasing the trailblazing man himself in his various guises as radical, activist, educator and friend. The show is written and performed by Tayo Aluko and directed by Amanda Huxtable, with design by Emma Williams.

Just An Ordinary Lawyer is presented by Tayo Aluko and Friends at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry on Saturday 19 May.

Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055, or by visiting www.belgrade.co.uk, where prices are even cheaper.

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