Blacked-up Minstrels show wins support

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The Independent Online
THEATRE-GOERS in Bristol have decided they like their Al Jolson impressionists black-faced, whatever the sensibilities of the city's racial equality council.

As That Old Minstrel Magic show hit its stride this week at the Hippodrome, Les Want, the star singer, blacked up for his role by popular demand.

Recalling that the televised Black and White Minstrel Show, was condemned as racist when it was axed in the 1970s, those behind the stage revival have trodden carefully. 'Black' has been expunged from the title and when the show moves to Liverpool next week, there will be no blacking up, by order of the Labour council.

On Thursday night, John Redgrave, the producer, told the near-capacity Bristol audience before the curtain went up that Mr Want would black up for his Al Jolson turn unless anyone protested to the management by the interval. No one did, and Mr Want received an ovation.

Mr Redgrave repeated the experiment last night and will do so tonight, with the added intention of winning the audience's blessing for the all-male chorus to black their faces. He said: 'It is a tribute to black musicians, not a send-up.' Judeline Ross, a spokeswoman for the Bristol Racial Equality Council, said yesterday: 'If you have a paying audience, it is a captive one. How many black people were there? Our objections have their roots in the days of slavery when black people were made to perform and caricature themselves. There are times in history when this sort of thing has been offensive to them.'