As far back as Rodney Ragbir could remember, he wanted to fly airplanes.
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Sangre Grande by Two thrills at Little Carib
Ronald Amoroso’s Sangre Grande By Two, produced by the Fifth Business Company, rides the crest of a recent wave of theatrical resurgence in the country by being one of the best things seen on a local stage this year.
The veteran dramatist, in a play directed by Brenda Hughes, pulls out all the tragicomedy stops in relating the ostensibly factual account of the life of a dysfunctional household headed by taxi driver Rufus, played by theatre veteran Errol “Blood” Roberts.
The play is set in Barataria in 1986. There is no hint of the political tidal wave of that year, but a sense that the country is in transition. Not much of that, however, reaches the living and dining rooms of this house.
Because of Rufus’ fascination with speed, he is also called “Flash” which hints at his philandering ways, while his common-law wife, Martha (played by Theresa Awai), looks after their son Adrian (Levee Rodriguez), prepares his meals, washes and cleans at home. All straight-forward, clichéd stuff we’ve seen before.
Rufus arrives home drunk, wants his food now, slaps Martha around. Nerdy Adrian, who is studying for an exam, tries to intervene but backs off. Rufus says he’s been to a wrestling card but has been out drinking, racing his taxi and occupying the back-seat of his car horizontally with female passengers of his choice.
Rufus has wagered on Adrian’s success at the exam. He is hoping that Adrian will someday help improve the household’s financial fortunes.
Hughes’ masterful directorial touch and a solid cast add gloss to a clever script that could have quite easily gone the way of fast-food farce in lesser hands.
Enter Postman Dalton, masterfully played by Eric Barry and Martha’s daughter from a previous liaison, Desiree.
First, Postman Dalton who flirts humorously with Martha each time he delivers bills and other unexciting correspondence. Barry’s performance is flawless. His sense of comedic timing outstrips anything seen on a local stage in a long time. Amoroso’s plot constructs a role for the postman that resides as a backdrop which moves to centre stage at the end.
Then there’s Desiree. Nobody thought she and Rufus would not have reached the stage of intimacy and that his brand new car won’t be the scene of the crime. Shannalee de Freitas is convincing as the flirtatious, carefree, opportunistic stepdaughter. Who’s the true victim of the sordid affair? Rufus or Desiree? Or is it Martha?
Oh, there’s also the wealthy, meddling couple Babsie (Anne Louise Tam) and Lio (Keino Swamber) —friends of the Rufus clan. Their roles help develop the characters of Rufus and Martha by providing contrasts linked to male/female dominance and wealth.
With Babsie and Lio, there is no doubt who is in charge. Babsie is the assertive woman who is generous with Lio’s money. Lio is the attentive husband who is often pushed around by Babsie.
In the end, Eric Barry’s Postman Dalton re-emerges. See the play and find out for yourself what happens.
Cyrus Sylvester’s set is the standard template but, on opening night, lighting was merciless as stagehands are frequently caught off guard on stage. The Little Carib ambience is pleasant and acoustics have improved over the years.
This Fifth Business production puts on display the work of one of the country’s leading and most prolific playwrights, Ronald Amoroso.
Emerging dramatists—and the current wave presents many—would do well to pay attention to what this icon of T&T theatre has to offer.