Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and we all players in it.” Shakespeare also said, “Bajans is kill me though.” He didn’t say that? Well, he could have, and it would have the same resonance as it currently does, plus reflect the first thing of many that took and held my attention in the first night of Glenville Lovell’s play which was held at the Frank Collymore Hall.
I stood on the Hall balcony for an hour because I went early and waited for some friends who came just minutes before the play started. That particular stage gave me the opportunity to see that this was going to be the largest audience I have ever seen at theatre in Barbados. They eventually filled the Hall! One artist friend who commented on it with me said the numbers were because of the sponsorship by the company called F.R.E.E. (Artists is something else).
Was the large audience because the show is free? Was it because there is a hunger for theatre here, evidenced by the many who currently attend church theatre, “Laff it Off” and “Pampalam” as I could argue? Was it because of the curiosity, as one organizer told me – the topic is on homosexuality? I didn’t ask, so I am not speculating. They filled the Hall and will fill it again for the next two nights the organizers told me.
Not only that, the audience last night appeared to come from many sectors with respect to age, class, race, sex and sexual orientation, religious interest -at least one Methodist priest known to me, another elder I was sure I recognized from the Muslim community. Artists from many genres were also there and many practicing academics. I saw and heard several conversations for an hour, watched the superficial things like dress and appearance of comfort or discomfort with the concert hall, the different ways of doing the kissing thing as greeting. Plus, I trust my over 40 years of participating in the arts in Barbados that helped me (right or wrong) to read some things. Bajans is something else! Don’t get me wrong; I loved them.
Then the play demonstrated what Shakespeare did not say – Bajans is something else. The script was very good – a mixture of well caught realism and self-conscious wit. It celebrated the Bajan habit of knowing the value of the stage – you know, how many Bajans talk and act to be both heard and overheard? I analyse this in my book on Lamming, so I will not discuss that here.
This was a so-called serious play and also very, very funny. The moments of Bajan busing (bad word, bad word) were inevitable for the characters, the scene and just the moment when they occurred. At least for the most part they were (I could have done without the specific reference to the Dipper, but that may be my prudery). By all of that I mean the cursing was not gratuitous.
If one reads the playscript which Lovell had the perspicuity to have on sale for an affordable price, one sees the continuous back and forth that made the dialogue so very smooth and Bajan. It reminds me of theatre of the absurd if only in that feature. A Thomas Beckett play shows that smoothness and flow, like when Len Boogsie Sharpe makes two tenor pans sound like a piano’s flow of sound. I like the script.
The acting was really senior. I have enjoyed the acting of Varia over the years, and that of Simon Alleyne for their ability to build and hold a character, and get that character to hold my interest. But I did not know John Hunte was an actor as well as my favourite dancer (when he danced). I saw him last weekend in House of Landship and continue to be impressed and hope he continues to develop his skills in this area. I knew the $2 philosopher was a funny comedian but I did not know he could act so well. I loved his timing. Shannon/Simone and Marcus/Stu as newcomers are to be congratulated for keeping the bathos out of characters and making believable some of the AIDS prevention prose moments of the script.
I was a little nervous at the difficulty of several of the actors to fold into each other when they played the tender scenes. Not Varia. But these moments were not destructive of a generally well-articulated team.
So that latter comment means the directing by Russell Watson was exceptional. Russell’s and the technical team’s execution made the play a wonderful evening’s entertainment. The set designer and the musical and sound team come in for special praise. If that play succeeds in filling the minds in the audience with the obvious point that gays are people too, as are ‘fallen’ women like Varia’s Solace and hard ears men like Nala’s Moses, then it was especially dependant on the sensitive connection between set, music and theme. The play was very well directed. The dancers did nice also.
Bajans is something else.
- Margaret D. Gill