by Margaret Gill
Shakespeare said: “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players.”
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 held my attention about the first night of Glenville Lovell’s play Simone’s Place running last weekend at Frank Collymore Hall. I stood in the Hall balcony for an hour, because I had gone early, waiting for some friends who came just minutes before the play started.
That particular stage gave me the opportunity to witness what was going to be the largest audience ever at theatre in Barbados. Patrons eventually filled the Hall!
One artist friend said the numbers were because of the sponsorship by the company FREE. (Artists is something else!)
Was the large audience because the show was free? Or 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? Or was it because of the curiosity, as one organizer told me, the topic being on homosexuality?
I didn’t ask; and I am not speculating.
The people filled the Hall last Friday night; and again the next two nights, the organizers told me. Not only that, the audience that Friday night appeared to come from many sectors, with respect to age, class, race, sex and sexual orientation, and religious interest. There was at least one Methodist priest known to me, and an elder I was sure I recognized from the Muslim community.
Artists from many genres were also there; and so were many academics. I heard several conversations for an hour; watched the superficial, like dress and appearance of comfort or discomfort with the concert hall; the different ways of doing the kissing thing as a greeting. Plus, my 40 years plus of participating in the arts in Barbados helped me 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?
Here 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. 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 read the playscript, which Lovell had the perspicuity to have on sale for an affordable price, one would see the continuous back and forth that made the dialogue so very smooth and Bajan.
I liked the script. The acting was really senior.
I have enjoyed the acting of Varia Williams 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 my favourite dancer John Hunte was an actor. I saw him last in House Of Landship, and continue to be impressed. I 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 Arthur (Simone) and Marcus Myers (Stu), as newcomers are to be congratulated for keeping the bathos out of their 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 Simone’s Place succeeded in filling the minds of the audience with the obvious point that gays are people too, as are “fallen” women like Solace (Varia Williams) and hard-ears men like Moses (Nala), then it was especially dependant on the sensitive connection between set, music and theme. The dancers did nice also.
Bajans is something else!