Cornelius Macarthy born in London but raised in Sierra Leon.  Returning to England Cornelius received his undergraduate degree at the Mountview Academy, appearing in The Hired Man, The Voysey Inheritance, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Chorus of Disapproval and Richard III among others.  

Upon graduation Cornelius appeared as Jim in A Taste of Honey (York Theatre Royal); in the World Premiere of Notes Across a Small Pond (Bridewell Theatre); as Levee in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Liverpool Playhouse); in  Tomorrow’s World (5.5 Theatre); Tartuffe (Short Black and Sides); Great Scot! and Drive Ride Walk (Bridewell) and as the Prince in Cinderella (Greenwich Theatre).  


On television and film Cornelius has been seen in MIT, My Hero, Silent Night, A Touch of Frost, was featured as Gonzaga in Danny Boyle's film Millions and played Francis Climbie in the BBC's Victoria Climbie Documentary.


Cornelius most recently appeared in the West End as Aide Warren in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest opposite Christian Slater and Alex Kingston. 

Currently Cornelius in working on a new musical being developed for the National Theatre depicting figures from throughout British black history as directed - written by Kwame Kwei-Armahe and composed by Errollyn Wallen. 


Additionally Cornelius has enjoyed a career of over ten years as a professional singing and recording artist.  Featured media appearances include Top of The Pops, Later with Jools Holland, MTV, and Capital FM, BBC Radio 4 and recordings with Madonna, Blur and Westlife.

After his audition for Lifting the Mask, the director, Dr. Bruce Wall, wrote Cornelius the following e-mail:

"First and foremost - I want to thank you for a truly excellent audition - and for taking the time to have a chat with me afterwards.  Each and all were deeply appreciated.   You quite rightly said that when you read the play aloud – as it should be – (for that is how I see it, the music and the text being one) – that you were ‘strangely moved but weren’t entirely certain why’.  I thought your comment profound.  That was, in fact, the response I was looking for:  It is what Gielgud called: ‘the unanswered question’ – what Tennessee Williams hailed as the ‘space between the bed and chair’ – or, as he less prosaically expressed:  ‘that space that draws the audience forward’.  That is ‘the poet’s vocation’.  It is what Dunbar celebrates humanely as he remembers the most productive time of his life ‘merely going up and down’ – not ‘twisting’ and ‘burning’.  He actively strives “to influence the heart in a gentler way than the marks left on your loaf”.  Oh, there is anger, bitterness and frustration – even repression – but, ultimately, there is hope for a ‘gentler’ resolution.  LIFTING THE MASK merely paints a very real hour and ten minutes in that struggle:  Dunbar and Williams [Tim Williams, LIFTING THE MASK's composer] are the ones who add the flesh.  In that sense the piece is entirely classical; illustrating what Dunbar calls ‘both the height and the end’ – without, hopefully, ever niggling at the centre.  It strives to show one man’s ‘eleven o’clock’ bout with simple confidence. That is universal – and Dunbar’s simplicity – as reflected in his own words – is reflective.  That’s your ‘why’, Cornelius.  Dunbar’s victory in the epilogue – explaining the ‘why’ of his own resolve – is ours.  It ‘might not come again’, says he, but ‘we can live in hope’ knowing that ‘our deeds’ might ‘find a record in the registry of fame; so that ‘our mutual bloods’ might be blessed – in a gentler way – to ‘cleanse completely every blot of slavery’s shame’.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born on June 27, 1872. His mother, Matilda Dunbar, was a former slave with a love for poetry. His father, Joshua Dunbar, was a civil war veteran who had served in the '55th Volunteers for Coloureds', a famous regiment whose ranks were composed of African-Americans. His parents divorced in 1874 and his mother worked long hours to support her family.

Paul Laurence Dunbar published his first poems in school newspapers while attending Dayton’s Central High School. Orville Wright was a classmate. Dunbar was the only black student in his class.  Indeed, Dunbar was the only black student in his school.  After his graduation in 1891, the only work he could find was as an elevator operator in Dayton’s Callahan Building. Many monotonous hours moving between floors allowed Dunbar’s poetic creativity to flourish.


Throughout 1891 and 1892, Dunbar submitted his elevator poems for publication in newspapers and popular magazines with limited success. His first anthology, Oak and Ivy was printed in 1893 at his own expense. This small volume of poetry recovered his investment of $125, but by the end of 1893, the young poet was financially despondent.

Dunbar left Dayton in 1893 and moved to Chicago. He met abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who employed him at the World’s Columbian Exposition. Within a few months he returned to Dayton and his position of elevator operator.

When at his lowest, Dunbar was befriended by Dr. Henry Archibald Tobey, the distinguished superintendent of the Toledo State Hospital for the Insane. Dr. Tobey became Dunbar’s greatest patron, more than once loaning the struggling poet substantial sums of money. Over the years, Dunbar was able to repay his benefactor, and also present to his friend a signed, inscribed copy of each of his increasingly popular works.


Dr. Tobey paid the printing costs for the private publication of Dunbar’s second collection of poems, Majors and Minors, in 1895. The young poet’s second anthology contained some of his best work from Oak and Ivy, together with original poems demonstrating a new maturity. A small section of Majors and Minors (the “Minors” essentially) featured humorous poems in Kentucky black dialect, a voice which the author would find increasingly inescapable. Majors and Minors contained many of Dunbar’s most enduring poems. Dr. Tobey circulated copies of the book among his friends who included the playwright James A. Herne. In turn, Herne sent a copy to an acquaintance, William Dean Howells.

On June 27, 1896, William Dean Howells, the nation’s most prominent literary critic, published a glowing one page review of Majors and Minors in Harper’s Weekly. By coincidence, the issue reported on the nomination of William McKinley for the presidency and consequently had a tremendous circulation. Dunbar, it was said, went to bed destitute and woke up on the morning of his twenty-fourth birthday as one of the most famous living Americans of African descent.

In 1897 Dunbar spent six months in England, touring and making personal appearances with the hope of furthering his career. The trip, while critically and popularly successful, was financially ruinous for Dunbar who was cheated of his earning.  Ultimately he was forced to return to the United States. Shortly after his return Dunbar was hired by the Library of Congress with the assistance of Robert Ingersoll, an orator and political speechmaker. In March of 1898, he married Alice Ruth Moore, a poet and school teacher. The marriage only lasted four years. After separating from Alice in 1902, Dunbar returned to Dayton, living with his mother. Dunbar died on February 9, 1906, at the age of 33 from tuberculosis.