Obituary: Frank Singuineau

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The Independent Online
Frank Singuineau, actor, born Port of Spain Trinidad, died London 11 September 1992.

FRANK SINGUINEAU arrived in Britain just after the Second World War and belonged to an exciting generation of Afro-Caribbean actors who based themselves here in the post-war years. They included Edric Connor and Errol John, from Trinidad; Nadia Cattouse, from British Honduras; Cy Grant and Thomas Baptiste, from Guyana; Earl Cameron, from Bermuda; and, from Jamaica, Lloyd Reckord.

Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Singuineau joined the staff of the Shell Company and took an active interest in Amateur Dramatics. After the war, he gave up his secure job with the Shell Company, travelled to London, and gained early acting experience broadcasting for the BBC's West India service, and appearing with the leftwing Unity Theatre. (Singuineau later recalled that, just after the war, the Unity Theatre opened its doors to black actors at a time when West End managements and agents closed theirs.) He also acted with various repertory companies and the Bristol Old Vic.

He made his London stage debut in Richard Wright's Native Son (1948) with the Guyanese actor Robert Adams. His final stage appearances were in Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine with the National Theatre, and Mustapha Ebtura's Playboy of the West Indies at the Tricycle Theatre, before he retired in the mid-1980s.

Singuineau began acting in films in 1953 in The Captain's Paradise with Alec Guinness and his friendship with Guinness won him a role in Simba (1955). Thereafter he found himself in demand for film roles and he made over 50 appearances, his films including Fred Zinnemann'a The Nun's Story (1959), Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), Dr No (1962), Bryan Forbes's Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), The Wrong Box (1966) and The Whisperers (1967). In Jack Clayton's The Pumpkin Eater (1964) he played the mysterious 'King of Israel' in a memorable sequence with Anne Bancroft. He also appeared in Carry On Again, Doctor (1969); Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man (1973); Live and Let Die (1973); Rollerball (1975); and, his last film, An American Werewolf in London (1981).

After years of playing small roles, often without screen credit, Singuineau was given an opportunity to demonstrate his acting ability when the Trinidadian director Horace Ove cast him in Pressure (1975). This was the first British feature film to be directed by an Afro-Caribbean and Singuineau gave a memorable performance as the elderly shopowner who clashes with his son when the latter becomes involved in the Black Power movement.

Singuineau made over 70 television appearances and in 1961 he was the first black actor to make an appearance in a British soap opera when he played a patient in several episodes of Emergency Ward 10. He gave a moving performance in the Armchair Theatre production The World In a Room (1970), a powerful drama about a mixed marriage.

Apart from his achievements as an actor, Frank Singuineau will be remembered for his reputation as a father-figure among black actors, always ready to offer to help and advise.

(Photograph omitted)