Barbados Theatrical Show is Happening! But happened too short… More Timothy Callender, please?

Due to late breaking stories and other chaos I was only able to make the final run of “It So Happen“, the Timothy Callender Suite from Diasporic Arts Productions at the Frank Collymore Hall over last weekend…

Cast in a well deserved Curtain Call - there must be more, appeal to the Culture Ministry now!

I nearly cried that I did not make the Opening Gala, especially when confronted with the incredible magnificence of the staging of such a highly coordinated event… The set itself was a mastery in simplicity and effectiveness as capitalised on by their Set Designer, Cuban Artist Leandro Soto of Aweipo Gallery who had a multi coloured drape be a wall, a cave or what was needed for a scene! a platform on rollers was either a bar or a kitchen and boxes were a Judge’s lectern and people themselves played Trees or Motorcycles, while the lighting implied where doors or vehicles were stationed, amazing and cunning!

Bajans hate rain, it was also the final night of the show, so for the Hall to be this packed before beginning was PHENOMENAL!

The quartet of tales could stand on their own, but what was done to draw a thread to connect them as a tableau was to have Elementals confront and judge an artist (possibly at their death) who chose to use words rather than carve stone or wood. My defense would have been that I shaped words like I could have done with granite or ebony, but then I may have been ground to dust by the Earth force as spoken by Nala, whose character wanted to either smash or smite all in its sight. The Elementals were never seen, only heard.

Dy Browne as Shango, the rebel wood-carver/stone-mason

The Water Elemental was rather evil by human context and a slippery delivery as spoken by Alison Sealy-Smith; the Air force was the most kindly yet aware of its power nevertheless – this Elemental was played with soothing yet chilling effect by the voice of Patrick Foster.

The craftsman under trial was none other than Ad Lib’s Dy Browne as Shango – not necessarily playing Mr Callender, as that would be like having Brad Pitt playing Woody Allen, but instead it was a metaphor how outsiders perceive art and try to pigeonhole or limit where you can decide how to express your craft.

Imagine in early Post-Industrial Barbados where a girl of 26 is considered too young for Marriage?

In the first movement – The Boyfriends showed how true love can triumph over societal expectations, where two gossips (Nala & Amanda Cumberbatch) relayed the tale of Elmina wooed by both Mr Bannister (Matthew Murrell) and James the Mechanic (Levi King). In a typical pre-1937 expectation, it was felt Bannister as a clerical officer in a department store was better partner choice than a man who wanted his own business with his own hands. Elmina’s myopic grandparents were played to clownish effect by Andrew Pilgrim and Alison (in a dual-role, so to speak).

Michael Taitt's Big Joe uses the poor Constable (Ishiaka McNeil) as a foot-stool to emphasise his intentions to The Magistrate as played by "Pilly"

Not satisfied, the Elementals demanded more proof why Shango, Dy Browne’s character, was justified in carving his own path instead of carving material as they decreed – this led to Romantic Interludes where a Magistrate’s Daughter fell in love withe village’s “Bad John” or Big Joe as delivered by Michael Taitt (who showed versatility in the previous number by transcending gender lines as a vivid gay portrayal which drew hoots from the crowd).

Ishiaka's character sees himself as a Philosopher/Advisor while his wife as rendered by iNDRANi sees the need for him to stir his stumps and bring in some money, in one of the show's musical highlights!

The Magistrate who adored abusing dictionaries and their definitions with an amazing array of alliterations was played by who else? Attorney-cum-Actor, Andrew, aka: Pilly. In the end, true love forced its way through but this tale did not meet with the Elementals’ satisfaction (But would anything ever do?) and so Shango spun the tale of The Man Who Saw Visions where apart from rhythm poetry and choral chanting featured Ad Lib’s other part of that dynamic duo, Nala, who played a next “Bad John,” but this one was different – he reformed and demanded everyone else to seek God too!

Abraham Jones took his first name literally and was really seeking to be like the Biblical patriarch with Isaac, yet as in the Bible, a ram appeared and averted disaster. I’m afraid I guffawed loudly several times and nearly threw the actors from their lines, luckily this pleased them – it meant the show was evoking the correct reactions, according to them. Shango made one last attempt to appease the Elementals – he gave the tale where Ishiaka McNeil and Indra Rudder played in the musical immigration tragedy of A Change Of Habit where a man spends 8 days in London illegally and comes back to Barbados trying to outdo the British’s own very Stiff Upper Lip mentality and mannerisms.

Levi King as part of the chorus relaying Abraham Jones' delusion in his desire to be "saved" again...

This desire to aspire to be what one is not eventually cost the man his life in an unnecessary clash with a runaway thief, but it was this very story which impressed the Elementals to allow Shango his Final Reward… In a related article, I plan to appeal to new Culture Minister Stephen Lashley what to uphold in his regime of that portfolio and how this play and other events need more attention if Barbadians are to seize Entrepreneurship successfully!

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