The NIFCA Theatre Arts Finals provides a canvass on which some of this country’s seasoned and emerging actors, poets, spoken word artists, and dramatists paint vivid pictures with their words to probe, prick the collective conscience and share their innermost thoughts and emotion on myriad topics.
This year’s edition, held on Tuesday, November 14th at the Frank Collymore Hall, was no different.
The finalists, competing under the theme Voices, demonstrated the power of words in drama or speech, collectively and creatively expressing views on themes that included identity, struggle, success, mental health, women’s health, image, and culture, history as well unabashedly sharing as their emotions, fears, and society’s influence and how that could impact on self-worth and identity.
Four schools – three primary and one secondary – competed this year.
He told children that with love, positive messages from loved ones, by ignoring the naysayers and predictors of failure and working hard towards their goals, they could be “brand free”.
Reynold Weekes Primary School students Chalesha Pilgrim, 10, and Christiann Bushell, nine, performed No Longer A Part of This World which dealt frontally with suicidal ideation, child abuse in various forms, and neglect, and what is a reality for some children in Barbados.
The piece, written by teachers Keshia Haynes and Andre Hayde, showed Bushell leaving her young daughter home as she headed to a night cruise.
In her absence her young daughter gave a startling perspective, sharing her feelings and the mental anguish while reinforcing the message that children have feelings, they are not invisible, and they need lots love.
Meantime, Deighton Griffith Secondary School’s young CSEC Theatre Arts group challenged some societal norms which reduce women “to inferior, diminished or unacceptable roles” in their poem Elsa’s Version. Told from the perspective of “a woman talking back to a patriarchal standard in society that relegates women to lesser roles”, the six students were “her voice of resistance”.
In Export Ready, Marshall explored personal and public perceptions of what that means in the Barbadian context and in Badu, “an ode to the history of black women’s hair, in all its textures and stylings” she celebrated black female beauty and reinforced its positivity by using real women with different hairstyles during the performance.
Skin Deep was the first of Chandler-Prescod’s two poem and Suicide Bomber, the second. In the first he explored the impact of societal beauty standards on a young male’s mentality and confidence, and how that affected his relationship with his masculine identity.
In the latter he peeled back the layers of child abuse, neglect, domestic violence, alcoholism, PTSD, and masculinity” and examined the lasting effect of a parent’s words to a child’s sense of self and identity as they grow.
Griffith also entered two poems: Colourism 101 and The Belch of Rasicm Has a Pungent Odour. In the first she called attention to underlying classism tracing its origins back to slavery while highlighting its prevalence today and in her second entry she spoke about the subtle, and sometimes overt, undertones of racism in Barbadian society.
Squires’ piece questioned the reason for the anger and violence seen in society and asked if race and skin colour were at the root of it. She also queried whether it had anything to do with “the sound of the whip” from slavery and if those feelings were still manifesting today.
The Rose That Grew From Concrete and One Story, Three Points of View were Greenidge’s two entries. He dealt with the struggles among black people in both pieces but went further in the latter offering a look into how poverty and crime could impact three generations of one family.
Alexander focused on the struggle of Barbados’ national heroes through the years in Sing for the Unsung and said that while they are worthy of the status, individuals who were key in the 1937 Uprising were also deserving of such status. His second piece, Her Child Returns, depicted the Caribbean African diaspora as a stolen, lost and abused child, one where the storyteller dreamt of return while telling of Mother Africa’s stolen children and glories.
The first play titled The Heat Is On raising awareness of menopause and called for greater education about this stage in a woman’s life and in Braveheart, the last performance for the night, best friends ‘Kimberly’ and ‘Renee’ engaged in a “brief but intense conversation” in which they spoke about divorce and death, respectively while showing how their relationship was affected by their handling of the situation. Apart from the gold, silver and bronze awards, the finalists had a chance to cop one of the several new awards in Theatre, such as The Alfred Pragnell Challenge Shield for Acting; The NIFCA Earl Warner Prize; The 50th Anniversary of NIFCA Award for the Most Outstanding Presentation in the NIFCA Theatre Arts 2023.