Last update: 13-Dec-2013 3:20 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Pantomime play highlights need for justice
Coming to The Little Carib Theatre from October 11 to 13 is a Walcott revival that will have the audience chuckling away, however, there are serious underpinnings that provide much food for thought.
Brenda Hughes, perhaps known more as an actor, is bringing back a play that she produced and directed (with Nigel Scott and Clairemont Taitt) at Raymond Choo Kong’s Space Theatre years ago. This time, with Susan Hannays Abraham working alongside, she’s directing Michael Cherrie and Maurice Brash in Pantomime, one of Walcott’s most humorous and poignant plays about human relationships.
Pantomime in essence explores the relationship between two individuals of unequal status; this, within the larger picture of the relationship between the coloniser and the colonised. Walcott crafts his plot around the Robinson Crusoe story, flavoured as it is with notions of empire and conquest. Putting a New World spin on an old classic, Pantomime the play is the Robinson Crusoe story turned upside down, as it were.
In the original version of the Robinson Crusoe story, a shipwrecked Englishman has an encounter with locals whom he considers to be cannibals. He strikes up a relationship with one of the natives who becomes his servant and Crusoe considers it his responsibility to instruct the servant in the “civilised” ways of Crusoe’s world.
In Pantomime, the play, Walcott’s Englishman (Harry Trewe) is a hotel owner now making the island his home after a failed marriage and a washed up career as an actor. He employs a handyman, Jackson, a retired calypsonian from Trinidad.
If ever there was a play on words this is it, starting with a play on the word pantomime itself, except that the reference in this case is not to the pantomime in which actors use gestures and not words, but this reference is to the Christmas Pantomime or Panto as they say in the UK. The Christmas Panto is marked by gender reversal where the male parts are played by the female and vice versa.
When Trewe the Englishman finds himself stuck for ideas for entertainment for his hotel guests, it occurs to him that he could fall back on the old Christmas panto theme and he comes up with a plan to conscript Jackson his handyman to act in a panto based on the Robinson Crusoe story; only in this case the reversal of roles goes beyond gender reversal.
The Englishman and the calypsonian become actors in a scenario where calypsonian Jackson plays Crusoe to the Englishman’s Friday-the white Englishman becomes the servant and the black calypsonian becomes the master—the coloniser becomes the colonised.
What happens when roles are reversed and the one once in a position of subjugation finds himself in control? As we say in Trini lingo, “breaks for it”. The inequality inherent in their relationship is challenged and the servant (now master) finds his voice and positions himself as the one in control, introducing his language, his values, his way of doing things.
Dramatic twists, scintillating dialogue, the nuances, the sheer genius of Walcott and the brilliance of the two actors–Brash and Cherrie–provide a theatrical experience that audiences will not soon forget Walcott’s Pantomime is a play that resonates with its audience on many different levels but as the drama unfolds we are reminded of what ultimately matters most in human relations: our need for respect, justice and recognition of our common humanity.
• Pantomime performances begin at 8 pm each night and at 6 pm on Sunday.
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