It was truly a night of excellence when the National Cultural Foundation staged its NIFCA Theatre Finals at the Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre last night.
Each act to hit the stage either left the audience in stitches or in a reflective mood, pondering the strong messages they would have delivered through their performances.
Pinelands Creative Workshop opened the night with a practical piece called Hard Knock Life. It depicted the daily struggle of a mother trying to get her children to do their chores, while they lamented “it’s a hard knock life”. There was sibling rivalry which ended with a pillow fight. Yelling “wash school clothes”, “clean de bedroom”, “carry out garbage”, the actress was a typical Bajan mother doing everything possible to get the children out of the house. The skit included the playing of the 1977 hit song which was featured in the 1982 musical Annie. It was quite funny.
The closing act, which was possibly the most riveting piece of the night, Irijah The Don, told the story of a gang leader and thug. With a gun in hand, The Don claimed it was “hot in the streets”. Pulling two guns from his waistline, the troublemaker was adamant that the only way he could gain respect, feed his family and survive was by living a life of crime.
He repeatedly referred to his partner, Charlie, and only in the end was it revealed that Charlie was a bigger rifle he had in his backpack. The play ended with the impactful sound of a single gunshot. The actress should get no less than a gold award for her efforts.
Tanika Walton was superb during her skit, It’s Me Mudda Sally. There were lessons in heritage and slavery. Listeners were reminded of womanhood and fertility and the need to embrace our lineage. It was impactful and Walton engaged the audience as well. She was dressed as Mudda Sally, in national colours, as she explained in a hilarious way how the character came to be. It was as informative as it was entertaining. Hers was a masterful performance also deserving of a gold award.
NH Productions’ piece, The Vow, with actress Nikita Holder taking lead, was emotional. Every emotion Holder expressed on stage as she performed with her partner was possibly felt by the captivated audience during the 15-minute poignant but hilarious piece. In it, the marriage was in shambles and the husband was giving his all to reconnect with his wounded wife. But the wife, who had multiple miscarriages and an abortion, had had enough. They were great on stage.
Tila Skeete was emotive and expressive in her theatrical piece called Disabled Welfare. In it, she painted the picture of the horrors disabled people encounter daily, at the hands of the Welfare Department especially. Skeete, who has cerebral palsy, told of the indignity of visiting the office to inquire about benefits only to be told to “get a job”. Each verse ended: “Welfare, disabled welfare, just ain’t fair…” and the crowd joined her. She, too, is well-deserving of gold.
Raquon Hinds and Devon St Hill of the Barbados Youth Service programme were great in their debut performance on a NIFCA finals stage. Were they to be scored, they would get an ‘A’ for effort. They performed From a Youth’s Point of View as a duo and then did solo pieces. St Hill did Tough and Hinds performed I See Freedom. There were rhymes and effective, skilful use of words. They were also expressive. One can only hope to see more of them at NIFCA and other stages in the future.
Dancin’ Africa Junior Company did an interesting piece called Man on Board. The multi-award-winning dance group depicted a Landship scene in which one member went overboard. The person was lost and ended up in the future where people are identified by numbers. It was similar to the Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy found herself lost and wanting nothing more but to go home to Kansas. However, the piece was very culturally sound and energetically performed.
Alister Alexander, with two stones in hand, performed a piece called A Big Rock. He used the stage to chastise youth involved in violence and deviant behaviour. In a laughable way, he spoke of the fact that some of them were benefitting from free education, free meals, and free bus rides but were still being menaces. It was a timely, relevant, 100 per cent Bajan piece.
Jaron Griffith’s Iz a Dialect was impressive. He begged Bajans to accept their native language as he repeatedly said: “It’s a dialect not an accent.” His cleverly written piece had moments of fun and moments to ponder.
Lael Charles did two pieces, What is Gender Based Violence? and Let’s Celebrate. The Harrison College student was lyrically strong in both. His was one that left the audience in a pensive and reflective mood. Both performances were solid.
Other finalists who should also be lauded are: Tafari Steede with When Brown Girls Dream and 12-year-old Isaac DaSilva with That Thing About Me. (IMC)