Woke up this morning, worked up a new career

Cleo Sylvestre launches her blues career at Rosemary Branch Islington London 171014 N1 © david.altheer@gmail.com

WHAT DO you do when you’ve had – and are still enjoying – a career that includes a British first, have raised a family and are well into your sixties? Become a blues shouter, of course.

That is the late-life plan of Cleo Sylvestre, the first black actor to win a leading role at the National Theatre, and a mother of three.

Telling herself “I want to do something else before I snuff it”, she enlisted a few musicians from among her friends in showbiz and, as Honey B Mama, is belting out 12-bar numbers to pubgoers around northeast London. Now she is seeking an agent for gigs outside London and on the Continent.

Not that Sylvestre has been slacking theatrically. At Edinburgh this year 2014 she won great reviews in a play called The Last Bloom.

As a leading force in a tiny theatre in a room above the Rosemary Branch pub at the lower end of Southgate Road, she is a familiar face to lovers of indy drama in London.

You may also have seen her in Kidulthood (2006) and other movies, playing roles well at odds with way her genteel, home-counties-born, Camden School for Girls persona.

Older readers may remember a, well, interesting, single she recorded at the age of 18, with backing by a little-known band.

The media became interested when she walked out (it was that kind of relationship) with the band’s singer, Mick Jagger.

A blues expert, the Dartfordian would approve of her inspiration to learn the mouth harp, Sonny Boy Williamson. Sylvestre says: “He was amazing, the first harmonica player I knew of.”

Rosemary Branch Theatre www.rosemarybranch.co.uk, 2 Shepperton Road N1 3D 150214 © david.altheer@gmail.com
Pioneer theatre-pub: the Rosemary Branch at N1 3DT, near Hackney

David Altheer 221014

* Honey B Mama will be at the Scolt Head, 107A Culford Road, De Beauvoir N1 4HT, Thurs 30 Oct 2014, 8.30pm, free. The pub has a disabled-access toilet.

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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2 thoughts on “Woke up this morning, worked up a new career

  1. Heard Honey B Mama at the Rosemary Branch last month: great/

    Carry on, Cleo!

  2. Great write-up – great singer. MUST get to one (or more) of her singing gigs.

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