The Othello Project was created by actors in the RSC company. This new writing endeavour seeks to highlight the life and work of five incredible Black and Asian forgotten figures from history. Inspired by Shakespeare’s Othello, as a study of the outsider, they are using art to challenge racism by creating a platform to champion the life and work of their ancestors, whose voices have been largely erased from history.
I have been interested in Trinidadian born Michael De Freitas (later known as Michael X) for many years, mainly because a large chunk of his life was spent in Ladbroke Grove, the neighbourhood I was born and grew up in decades later.
The legacy of the Windrush generation, the pre-war slums of North Kensington, the free love and liberalism of the 1960’s and the immense wealth divide in this inner-city borough have come together to form a really distinct environment and community that both Michael and I have called home.
Like me, Michael was mixed race. Living in an England that to this day remains in places culturally divided, and has not yet fully digested or discussed the legacy of its colonial power.
The framing of the story of his life in fiction, biography and autobiography written over the last 50 years presents a man mysterious and complex - an antihero at best, a villain at worst.
I’m fascinated with the dual and liminal experience of being a mixed race person who - to an extent - has the choice to exist in white and black communities in different ways because they “belong” to both. To interrogate that “belonging”, and to explore the nature of Michael’s code switching, to understand the various identities he adopted, and why his life ended the way it did.