Friday, 23 September 2011

Biography - Anton Phillips


by Marjorie H Morgan © 2013


Anton Phillips. Actor; Director; Producer. Born: 1943. Jamaica.

Anton Phillips was born in Kingston, Jamaica and attended Manchester High School in Mandeville before he and his family moved to the United States when he was 13 years old. After completing high school when he attended Mackin High School, Washington DC, he studied radio and drama at the RCA Institute in New York before returning to Jamaica to do radio work. He travelled to Europe going through Germany and France before he settled in London. His first employment opportunities were working for the actor’s union Equity and then at the Jamaican High Commission as a passport officer. He left to write a play that won a prize in a Jamaican festival.

Phillips started training at the Rose Bruford College in 1969. After completing his training Phillips began his career as a stage radio and television actor. His second stage role was as Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello at the Open Space Theatre in London: the main character was played by Rudolph Walker. This production had an extended run in London and also toured in Germany. Phillips became well known for his appearances in the science fiction series Space 1999 that was shown on television in 1975 -1977. He appeared as Dr Bob Mathias in over 20 episodes in the first two series; he left the series because he had not been given a contract and he was discontented with his negligible roles.

Phillips started Carib Theatre Productions in London with Yvonne Brewster in the early 1980s. Phillips became the longstanding artistic director at Carib Theatre Productions. Together with Brewster he took educational theatre to children’s schools performing on subjects such as ‘How an Atom Splits’.
A politically driven person, Phillips formed the Black Theatre Forum to have a location where black artists could meet and talk about politics. He initiated the Black Theatre Season in 1983 in London. This festival was organised in London’s West End with the objective of centralising black British theatre both physically and culturally; it was to run for six seasons and provided an essential stage for black talent involved in the writing, production and performance of new work. Phillips has always actively encouraged and nurtured new writing in the theatre.

He had a number of appearances on television in the 1980s including Bognor (1980), Strangers (1981) and No Problem! (1983). He continued to work as a television actor into the next two decades appearing in The Bill (1991-2007); Between The Lines (1991) and Casualty (1993).

As a producer he always maintained on high standards. In 1987 he produced the Amen Corner by James Baldwin at the Tricycle Theatre and became the first black person to have produced and directed a play that was transferred to the West End.

In the 1990s Phillips was unsuccessful as he campaigned with Malcolm Frederick to raise funds for a theatre building in Brixton. He then focussed his energies on writers’ workshops and training for actors, producers and others involved in theatre productions. A typical workshop that was run was Accents and Interpretations (1995): this training course explored the use of Caribbean accents in performances in a similar way to the aims of the Barn Theatre in Jamaica. In 1996 Phillips was involved in the Black Art Action Day held at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London.

In 2008 Phillips performed, with music from Errol John, a tribute to Aimé Césaire, the powerful epic poem Notebook of a Return to my Native Land, at the George Padmore Institute. His enthusiasm for promoting black art and theatre has been evidenced in his membership on many committees such as Greater London Arts and the GLC; he also lectures about playwriting and undertakes research into Black Arts in Europe for the British Council. Phillips has also been a consultant about playwriting and theatre in Tanzania for the British Council.

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