Remembering Michael Abbensetts: On the 5th Anniversary of his passing

Thursday 25 November 2021

Tribute to Britain’s foremost Black playwright Michael Abbensetts on the 5th year anniversary of his passing.


“Michael Abbensetts was a Queen’s College pupil (1952-1956), as many children from middle-class Guyanese backgrounds were. His father, Neville John Abbensetts was a Doctor, his mother, Elaine kept home and both were very strict. His father didn’t like that Michael chose the economically precarious profession of writing over the supposedly financially sound choices of lawyer, doctor, architect and so on. The dispute between them over it persisted throughout Michael’s life. I suspect he sometimes, very slightly, regretted that this was one of the major outcomes of his decision to become a writer.

But a playwright he was. At that time when he came to London in 1963 there weren’t many. His first play, Sweet Talk opened at the Royal Court in 1973. From our conversations, I gather he was ‘hot stuff’ during those days, owing to the success of Sweet Talk. His work was fresh and spoke to Britain’s theatre goers’ curiosities about black people being here at all. He didn’t struggle, as he would later, to get his plays put on. The TV drama series, which is how he saw it (and not as a ‘soap’ as it was deemed), Empire Road ran on BBC2 from 1978 -79, the first of its kind, and one of few since that time.”

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