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Tribute to Queen's Park's award winning playwright Mustapha Matura who has died

PUBLISHED: 12:42 05 November 2019

Playwright Mustapha Matura has died. Picture: Francine Lawrence

Playwright Mustapha Matura has died. Picture: Francine Lawrence

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The groundbreaking and inspirational British-Trinidadian playwright Mustapha Matura has died aged 79.

The father-of-four who lived in Queen's Park with his family died of a heart attack on October 29 while on a plane home from Canada where he'd met his sixth, newest grandchild.

He was the first major ethnic writer to stage a play at the National Theatre in 1991 with his tale of abortive Trinidadian takeovers, The Coup.

He was co-founder of Black Theatre Co-operative (now nitroBEAT), based in Maida Vale, which commissioned and supported work by black writers in Britain.

Closer to home his work was championed by Nicholas Kent, former artistic director of the Tricycle, now Kiln, in Kilburn High Road.

His daughter Maya Matura, said: "He was always a Trinidadian, he had connections to the West Indian community and he was also, in my opinion, a real Londoner. He spent the majority of his life here and loved it. He was inspirational as a father."

Mr Matura was born in The son of a car salesman whose own father had been a Brahmin priest in India and a mother with mixed Creole, Scottish and African heritage, he was born in Trinidad - then in the British West Indies, now Trinidad and Tobago.

He came to England in 1961 and not long after, following stints as a hospital porter, he decided to write plays about the West Indian experience in London.

He married and divorced his first wife, Marian Walsh, with whom he had two children, Ann and Dominic. He had Maya and her brother Cayal with his second wife, publisher Ingrid Selberg.

"They moved to Queen's Park in 1985 and they bought this nice house which wasn't a nice house on the corner of the park and made it very lovely," remembered Maya.

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"It was the centre of our family and our social lives."

His award winning plays often had a political and comedic element. Meetings (1981) and Playboy of the West Indies (1984) both transferred from the Tricycle.

Play Mas was first performed at the Royal Court in 1974 and received a special 50th anniversary revival at the Orange Tree Theatre in 2015.

"He was a playwright while I was growing up but I remember going to see some plays as a child, there was one, the Meetings at the Tricycle I was dragged to and they were all smoking on stage, it was horrible. I was only about seven and it was lost on me.

"Then I went to see the Playboy when I was 10 and I loved it. That was the first time I really got it. That's a great play for all ages, there's so much crime and there's comedy in it even though it's quite serious."

The 35-year-old added: "Going to the Tricycle as a kid and my dad as a playwright, all that stuff was really special for me and my brother to see his celebrity side to our dad.

"It was quite different because he worked from home and he was often the one to often pick me up from school and cook me dinner and do the laundry. Then seeing him occasionally in these very high profile evenings where everyone wanted to speak to him and get a piece of him was always very exciting as a kid."

Mr Matura also wrote for television, including the sitcom No Problem for Channel 4 and later Black Silk for the BBC.

Maya added: "What's amazing is we continue to learn more and more about him now that he's gone - how many people he touched that our family didn't know about. He was so open and curious about people. Ask him his favourite hobby and he'd probably say 'sitting and watching people'.

"He touched many people's lives in many different ways and different extents. It is so special for us to be finding out now. We know he spoke to strangers all the time, but they weren't strangers to him."

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