Charles Hyatt (1931-2007) - The National Library of Jamaica

Charles Hyatt (1931-2007)

Charles Hyatt was born in Kingston on February 14, 1931. His education up to age thirteen was carried out at several schools, which included Windward Road, St. Michael’s and St. Aloysius.

Hyatt entered amateur theatricals in 1946, when he joined the Caribbean Thespians-founded by Anthony Finn. After a successful tenure with the Caribbean Thespians, Charles was invited to appear in the 1950 Little Theatre Movement (LTM) Pantomime Production of Aladdin. He made eleven consecutive appearances until 1960/61; eight of which he appeared in as the dame.

In 1959, Charles joined the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) for the launching of a new radio station and was first among a list of early morning presenters. During his tenure at JBC, he created and presented what became a popular programme at the time, Here Comes Charley.  In the same year, Charles was elected Actor of the Year and awarded a scholarship by the Arts Council of Jamaica and was granted a bursary by the British Council. He left for England in 1960 and was attached to Theatre Royal in Windsor for six months.

Following his attachment to the Theatre Royal, he was cast as a West Indian doctor in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) longest running radio serial Mrs. Dale’s Diary. After a nine-month stint with this production, he was cast in his first television production for the BBC entitled A Book with Chapters in it. Soon after, he was cast in a production called The Day of the Fox, which was written by Jan Carew for Commercial Television and which also starred Sammy Davis Jr.

In 1962, he was invited to return to Jamaica for a performance in Nuggets for the Needy, where he was once again afforded the opportunity to work with Sammy Davis Jr. His visit home was extended from two weeks to three months to allow him the opportunity to perform in the Independence Revival of the LTM’s Carib Gold. On his return to England, he ventured into the Off West End Production of Do Something Addy Man and realized new adventures in his professional career in Britain and Europe.

Over the next thirteen years he appeared and starred in several television, radio, stage and cabaret productions for the BBC, ITV, Grenada and London Week-end Television, BBC Home, Third Light and Caribbean Radio Services which featured productions such as Crown Court, Love thy Neighbour and Blood Knot.

During his theatrical career, he toured Britain and Europe with several productions for the Oxford Playhouse and other professional theatrical groups. His film career in England included High Wind in Jamaica, Crossplot, Bush Babies and Love Thy Neighbour. While in England, Charles made over 200 appearances on radio and over 50 on television.

Upon his return to Jamaica in 1974, he rejoined the JBC as the Head of the Department of Theatre and  was also the producer and director of the popular radio serial Fortunes of Floralee. He was also the presenter of the Musical Show, Sunday Souvenirs. During this time he also appeared in several productions including McBeth, Two’s a Crowd, Sex, Brashanio, Mother Courage, The Mouse Trap, Old Story Time and Johnny Reggae. He also wrote, directed and produced plays which included The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Jesus Christ Dem Kill Son Son, Curly Locks and The Seven DJ’s and Santa Fari. He also produced and directed the following for radio: Ritual: For a new Liberation Covenant and The Rope and the Cross.  

Charles is also known for his book When me was a boy  in which he gives readers insight into some aspects of Jamaican social life and customs. This book was published by the Institute of Jamaica in 1989. In 1977, he was awarded Actor of the Year for his performances in several productions, which he also produced and directed. In 1978, he was awarded a Silver Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica. In 1980, he was awarded the Institute Centenary Medal and a national honour – the Order of Distinction.