In his novel, Dancing in the Dark (2005), Caryl Phillips fictionalises the life story of the Caribbean-born black American minstrelsy entertainer Bert Williams who became America’s most famous and best-paid performer at the beginning of the twentieth century. Other stories interwoven into Phillips’s imaginative retelling are those of Williams’s wife Lottie; his black stage partner George Walker; and Walker’s wife Ada. This polyphony of adopted voices — along with the inclusion of (fictional?) authentic material such as newspaper clippings, excerpts from interviews and original lyrics from some of Williams’s and Walker’s musical shows — allows Phillips to provide the reader with a sense of Bert Williams the person as well as with a sense of the times in which the novel is set.
Tournay-Theodotou, Petra, Performative bondage or the limits of performing race in Caryl Phillips’s Dancing in the Dark, Kunapipi, 31(2), 2009.