Thursday, 15 November 2007

Meetings (Arcola Theatre October 2007)

Food serves as a metaphor for the old way of life that Hugh craves. For his wife, Jean, meetings and more meetings is the only way of ensuring she climbs up the ladder in the new corporate world they couple have found themselves.

In 1980s Trinidad, the economy is booming and Hugh and Jean, a high-flying business couple, have every reason to be happy.

But when Nicholai La Barrie as Hugh meets an old woman selling traditional Caribbean food he remembers the meals his mother used to make: he realizes what is missing in his life. Starting with food, Hugh changes his whole way of life. His search for happiness leads him away from swimming pools, a speed boat and Jean.

‘Meetings’ is a darkly comic look at a generation tempted by the fast cars and fast food of the American lifestyle but rooted in a more traditional culture. Their search for an identity, torn between heritage and globalisation, is as recognisable today as it was in the 1980s.

Hugh wants the traditional things in life that his Trinidadian Culture has to offer him; Jean (Inika Leigh-Wright) on the other hand wants a slice of the economic boom in the nation.

Written by Mustapha Matura, who is regarded as one of the finest dramatist of West Indian origin; Meetings is set in Trinidad, his place of birth. It is a play that delves into the loss of cultural heritage and tradition, a clash between the old and the new.

Hugh wants real Trinidadian food, like coo-coo to get back that old feeling of what it means to be home but Jean can’t be bothered to make any because she is too busy with her meetings, a point she reiterates when she tell him, “I’m not ya mother younno,” when her husband makes a point about the kitchen having everything they need except food.

However, his new found appetite for the old way of life is satisfied by Elsa (Davina Anderson), the house-help brought in to help make traditional food for Hugh.

Soon we are faced with class divide as shown through the characters of Elsa and Jean, two different women with separate lives. While Jean has lost sight of her history, Elsa is still very much connected to the old way of life and Hugh has rediscovered his passion for that old way of life, which Jean no longer wants for them as a couple.

Dan Barnard succeeds in his ability to bring to light the questions raised by Matura in this reprised production of Meetings. While it does not tug at you emotionally, it is successful in its ability to provoke thought and question us as individuals about the little things in life which we sometimes take for granted such as family, identity and heritage.

Image: Trini Jungle

Pure Gold (Soho Theatre October 2007)

The blue London skyline serves as the scenic backdrop for Simon’s desire to provide for his family. Written by Michael Bhim and directed by Indhu Rubasingham and the return of Talawa Theatre Company to the stage after two years; Pure Gold is a transparent depiction of the realities of the everyday London life of a man and his struggles to provide for his family.

Simon is doing the best his best to ensure the financial well-being of his family, re-gain the respect of his wife and the approval of his son. However, he also feels cheated by the harsh realities of life that surrounds him, especially the lack of job opportunities.

Faced with limited choices, Simon’s decisions are that of a man who will do whatever it takes to be counted as a man in the eyes of those he loves but will his decisions also cost him the respect he is fighting so hard to gain?

A gritty examination of the daily frustrations of life, which culminates in the domestic violence and abuse hailed at Marsha (Golda Rosheuvel) from Simon (Clarence Smith) with their son, Anthony (Louis Ekoku) caught in the middle.

This bold take on one man's struggles with poverty through the eyes of the up-and-coming playwright, Michael Bhim, is compelling and powerful. His ability to take a subject matter that permeates throughout society as it deals with the everyday life and situation of a family shows great promise for this young writer with his first full length play.

The play brings to the surface questions such as, does money really make you important and is life about the choices we make as it reverts back to the old notion of what makes a man.

Pure Gold is an intense and delightful production for anyone who can understand the challenges and set backs of getting by in today’s fast pace world and reiterates that gold comes at a price. It is a snapshot of life and its present day realities.

Image: Richard H. Smith

Shows Through Time

The stage for all its faults is also a strong place for telling it like it is and having no need to apologise.

I have seen a few productions in the years past, even prevous year that have stayed with me for the right reasons. If you are yet to see 'Da Kink In My Hair', I beg you, make time the next time you find out its in town. It will lift your spirit and make you laugh. Trey Anthony is a prolific writer. She knows how to speak to the heart of women.

They are women telling their stories and they tell a good story that is ebullient and thought-provoking.

'The Brothers' by Angie Lamar, helps to understand how men think.

Now if you have never heard of 'TownShip Stories', one words sums it up, Gritty. Just sheer gritty realism.

There were provocative and powerful.



What Makes Theatre Great?

"I deliberately look for colourful people. They're are very right for theatre. Theatre has to be theatrical" - Lanford Wilson


If you enjoy anything that stimulates the mind then we have something in common. For me, its theatre. There's something about it which makes it so different to other forms of art. Yes, its live, direct and in you face but its the sheer factor that it is life for all its reality, yet it is not real.

Ever wondered what playwrights think about when they create the characters we come to know for those few hours we sit with them, get to know them, sympathise with them and then fall in love with them if we like them. If not, we are more than hapy to see them go to the gallows.

I imagine its like the process of pregnanacy, just less physical and emotional. As a playwright, you carry a character inside you from the stage of conception and then give birth. Same way, you become a lunatic as you hit the keys, puncnhing those words out and soimetimes, you find you have to say those words out loud; inorder to get a feel and rythmn of what they sound like. Guess what, you become a lunatic for them. Poeple even laugh at you and think you have gone crazy. I know, it has happened to me and still does. I talk to myself on the bus and a little while back, a friend asked me why I was having a converstaion with myself? Though my lips were not moving, the characters had me engrossed deep in converstion and I forgot about my immediate surrondings. They had my full and undivided attention.

Same way, an established playright has a relationship with their characters. It is one of the tricks to creating colourful characters. To know them like you know yourself. However, you must also be able to let them breathe and walk on their own. That's why you have to seperate yourself from them and let them tell their story. Like you would let go of your children, when you know its time to stop babysitting them.

Characters are human beings in play, they have a mind and a will. A personality and can their own decisions. They live like we do. They are vicarious about life and if they are dull and boring, they are not afarid to let it show either. Characters are who they are.

Writing my play has meant a lot of thinking and I am yet to scracth the surface of what makes a great masterpeiece. I get nervous that I am might be going down the route of melodrama but if I don't let it flow like it is now, then how will I be able to correct myself and avoid the melodrama I hate in theatre productions?

Time to get back to the paper right before amd write those words ike tomorrow is the day it gives birth to itself on the live stage.