Errol John

Errol John (20 December 1924 – 10 July 1988) was a Trinidad and Tobago actor and playwright who emigrated to the UK in 1951.

Errol John
Actor Errol John.jpg
Born(1924-12-20)20 December 1924
Died10 July 1988(1988-07-10) (aged 63)
Years active1951–88


Born in Port of Spain, John was home-schooled, then began his career as an artist and journalist. Deciding to pursue a career in acting, he joined the Whitehall Theatre Group in Trinidad.[1]

Following the Second World War, John moved to Britain in 1951 and continued to work in the theatre, appearing on the London stage in productions including Salome (1954), Carson McCullers' play The Member of the Wedding at the Royal Court Theatre (directed by Tony Richardson, 1957), The Merchant of Venice (1962), Measure for Measure (1963) and Othello (at the Old Vic, with Leo McKern and Adrienne Corri in the cast). He had several small roles in films such as The African Queen (1951), The Heart of the Matter (1953), The Emperor Jones (1953), Simba (1955), The Nun's Story (1959) and Guns at Batasi (1964). He gained a major role in the BBC's A Man from the Sun (1956), alongside Cy Grant, Nadia Cattouse and Colin Douglas, and later had a significant role in the television series No Hiding Place (ITV, 1961) and in the five-part series Rainbow City, written for him by John Elliott.[1][2]

John's first script written for a play was The Tout (1949),[1] then in 1957 his Moon on a Rainbow Shawl won The Observer's Play of the Year award. It was produced at the Royal Court in 1958, and in 1962 in New York City. Over the half-century since then the play has achieved iconic status as a classic of Caribbean theatre, regularly staged internationally, in countries as diverse as Iceland, Hungary and Argentina.[3] In the UK there have been notable productions at the Almeida Theatre (1988, directed by Maya Angelou), at Stratford East, and most recently at the Cottesloe Theatre, Royal National Theatre (2012) in an acclaimed production directed by Michael Buffong. The Observer′s reviewer wrote: "It is marvellous to report that, 55 years on, this play, in its original version, holds its own and seems fresh as the day it was written."[4] On 27 May 1958, a version of the play that John had adapted for radio and entitled Small Island Moon was broadcast on the BBC's Third Programme; it was produced by Donald McWhinney and Robin Midgley, with a cast led by John himself and including Barbara Assoon, Sylvia Wynter, Lionel Ngakane, Andrew Salkey, Robert Adams, and Sheila Clarke (Boscoe Holder's wife and lead dancer).[5]

Errol John's other writing included Force Majeure, The Dispossessed and Hasta Luego: Three Screenplays (1967). For television he wrote Teleclub (1954) and Dawn (1963), and was also the author of The Exiles, part of the BBC Wednesday Play series.[2]

He attempted to work in the American film industry, but was limited to minor roles in Assault on a Queen (1966) and Buck and the Preacher (1972).[6]

John died in Camden, North London, at the age of 63.[2] He was posthumously awarded the Trinidad & Tobago Chaconia Medal (Silver), for Drama, in 1988.[7]


Year Title Role Notes
1951 The African Queen Native Soldier Uncredited
1953 The Heart of the Matter African Policeman Uncredited
1955 Simba African Inspector
1956 Odongo Mr. Bawa
1959 The Nun's Story Illunga (African convert)
1961 The Sins of Rachel Cade Kulu, Assistant to Rachel
1963 PT 109 Benjamin Kevu
1964 Man in the Middle Sgt. Jackson
1964 Guns at Batasi Lieut. Boniface
1966 Assault on a Queen Linc Langley
1972 Buck and the Preacher Joshua
1984 Sheena Bolu


  1. ^ a b c Chambers, Colin (2006). Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 407. ISBN 1-84714-001-7.
  2. ^ a b c Ray, Ed. Mohit K. (2007). The Atlantic Companion to Literature in English. Atlantic Publishers & Dist, 2007. p. 271. ISBN 81-269-0832-7.
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica.
  4. ^ Kellaway, Kate, Review of Moon on a Rainbow Shawl", The Observer, 18 March 2012.
  5. ^ "Errol John in 'SMALL ISLAND MOON'" (Third Programme, 27 May 1958, 21.15), Radio Times, Issue 1802, 23 May 1958, p. 39.
  6. ^ "John, Errol (1924-1988)". BFI Screen Online. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  7. ^ Errol John biography, compiled by Ronald C. Emrit.

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