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Michael Abbensetts 1938-2016

Playwright, Radio/tv/screenwriter

Michael Abbensetts began his writing career with short stories, but decided to turn to playwriting after seeing a performance of John Osborne’s Look Back In Anger. His first play, Sweet Talk, was put on at the Royal Court Theatre. He was appointed Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court. The play won The George Devine Award. That same week, The Museum Attendant, his first television play was broadcast on BBC2. Next, he wrote Black Christmas, a TV film directed by Stephen Frears.  During the late 70s, early 80s, a number of his plays were produced for the London theatre: Alterations, Samba, In The Mood, Outlaw and El Dorado. Inner City Blues, Crime and Passion, and Roadrunner were produced on television.  Radio plays included Sweet Talk (BBC, World Service, 2001),  Summer Passions,  Brothers Of The SwordThe Sunny Side Of The Street and Home Again.

He wrote British television’s first Black drama series, Empire Road. Horace Ove was brought in to direct the second series, establishing a production unit with a Black director, Black writer and Black actors. Not only was it the first drama series to be conceived and written by a Black writer for a Black cast, but it was specifically about the British-Caribbean experience. Set in Handsworth, Birmingham, it featured Norman Beaton as Everton Bennett and Corinne Skinner-Carter as his long-suffering screen wife. Norman Beaton continued to star in many of Abbensett’s television productions including Easy Money (1981) and Big George Is Dead and Little Napoleons (Channel 4, 1994), a four-part comic-drama depicting the rivalry between two solicitors, played by Saeed Jaffrey and Norman Beaton, who become Labour councillors. The work focuses on a number of themes including the price of power, the relationship between West Indian and Asian communities in Britain and the internal workings of political institutions.

Born in Guyana in 1938, Michael was the Visiting Professor of Drama at Carnegie-Mellon University, 1983/84.  In 2002, he worked as a Project Fellow with the Caribbean Studies Department, and taught a course entitled ‘An Introduction to Caribbean Film and Literature’, at the then University of North London to examine, critically, representations of the Caribbean in film, television (his speciality) and literature.

Michael Abbensetts 1938-2016


City & Guilds of London School of Art 2006-09
University of North London (now London Metropolitan University) 2000/01
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