Thursday, 17 August 2017

YOU, ME & SHE: ‘Matey Chronicles’ whips up a combustible mix of sex, secrets and scandal

MAKE YOUR CHOICE: Things get pretty heated between Deer and Wilson.

The Matey Chronicles (Jambiz Productions) 
Director: Patrick Brown & Trevor Nairne 
Cast: Courtney Wilson, Sakina Deer, Sharee Elise and Glen Campbell 
Venue: Centrestage Theatre, New Kingston 

WHAT’s a prominent public figure to do when his sweetheart starts revealing intimate details of their affair on her blog, which quickly amasses an ardent following and becomes the hottest piece of gossip at the barber shop and the beauty salon? That’s the scandalous situation Isaiah Jakes (a commanding Wilson) finds himself in when Lola Stone (Deer, terrific) starts dishing about her mysterious “Mr. X” in cyberspace before a global audience. 

Lola, a gorgeous but needy girl, has no qualms about being the other woman (the ‘matey’ in Jamaican parlance), but it’s been two years of promises, promises and Isaiah sneaking to her apartment in the dead of night (disguised as her granny!) for hanky-panky. She feels she deserves more. For Lola, the time has come for him to put a ring on it. Never mind that Isaiah’s been married to the oblivious yet devoted Minerva (Elise, convincing as a Sunday-School-teacher type) for 22 years. Lola gives him an ultimatum: she’s tired of waiting and he must choose between her and the wife. 

Yes, sparks fly and tempers flare in Patrick Brown’s The Matey Chronicles, an edge-of-your-seat, popcorn-worthy comedy-drama that’s so juicy that by the time the plot is set, you’re dying to see how the action will climax and ultimately conclude. 

Brown’s storytelling prowess never ceases to amaze, and though the ending could have been a bit more imaginative, The Matey Chronicles comes off as a well-spun and thought-provoking piece of work, delving into matters of the heart, attitudes towards matrimony, choices and consequences. You alternately cheer and chastise these characters as they hurt each other, make up and begin the cycle all over again. 

Every the brilliantly versatile performer, Campbell is the fourth wheel this time around, appearing as Ras B, Isaiah’s long-serving gardener, personal chauffeur and a shoulder to cry on when the Lola mess hits the fan. Though the play echoes predecessors like The Baby Scam, Brown and Nairne manage to bring a freshness to the production that goes in hand in hand with its tabloid appeal – and the very natural acting style that the players (all Jambiz veterans) bring to the stage. 

A suitably functional set design and apt lighting make strong contributions to the show’s overall success. 

If nothing else, The Matey Chronicles is a bonafide conversation starter. For one thing, it’s bound to have the restless husbands in the audience weighing the pros and cons of embarking on extra-marital romps. At the same time, the mateys, too, have to take an honest appraisal of such relations – the betrayal, the heartache. As for the wives: it’s midnight, do you know where your man is? Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

NEWS FEED: Holness launches youth summer work programme + St. Thomas girl cops Farm Queen title + Quarrie lays down the law

WORK TO BE DONE: Over the course of the next four weeks, some 2300 youths across the island will be employed under the National Youth Service Employment Programme. The programme, launched by PM Andrew Holness at Jamaica College on August 10, will see the young workers engaged in the auditing of street lights, identifying vulnerable persons within communities who may require assistance during periods of natural disasters and other forms of emergency, and identifying streets for which signs are missing. “Some street lights are on but the lights are dim. We want to know which street lights are out, so that we can better provide the service for the communities,” Holness told the gathering. The youth work programme is being spearheaded by the local government ministry and will run from August 4 to September 8. Each worker will be paid a weekly $8000 stipend. 

WINNER TAKES ALL: One of the highlights of the annual Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon is the crowning of the National Farm Queen. This year’s winner is Trudiann Ashmead, a 25-year-old St. Thomas native currently pursuing gender and development studies at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). In addition to a handsome cash prize from title sponsors Nutramix, Ashmead won a scholarship to pursue studies of her choice at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) and will embark on a two-week exchange programme courtesy of Delaware State University. 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? What’s the way forward for Jamaica’s senior athletics programme in the wake of the disappointing results gleaned at the 16th IAAF World Championships in London – not to mention the shocking report of an altercation between two of the country’s female representatives at the championships? Taking stock and looking ahead, technical leader Donald Quarrie has laid down the law. “Guidelines are going to have to be set up and enforced, and athletes are going to have to understand that if you are not prepared to step up to the line, you can be replaced – even if it means we are not going to win,” Quarrie told The Gleaner’s AndrĂ© Lowe. “We have to start somewhere as it relates to certain disciplinary means of making sure our athletes realize that when it comes to the country – especially in the relays – the country comes first.”

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

TALK OF THE TOWN: J'can sprintng has "taken a pause," says Donald Quarrie

What are we to make of Team Jamaica's dismal showing at the just-concluded London World Championships? Some people feel it was an immense letdown, given our tendency to dominate the sprints and come away from these global championships with no less than eight medals. This time around, we bagged half of that amount (one gold and three bronzes). Is the high standard of our athletics gradually eroding? The best person to answer is Donald Quarrie, the contingent's technical leader, who says "we have taken a pause." But what does this mean exactly? "Things have not come through the way [we] planned, and that's part of track-and-field," he is quoted as saying. "Let's go back to the drawing board, maintain our name and standard in the sprints and build up the other areas. We have taken a pause, but we will be a force to reckon with very soon again." As they say, optimism should always win in the end... 

The JCDC has been winning all season long and deserve magnificent kudos for the excellent production value they brought to the Emancipendence/Jamaica 55 events inside the National Arena - from the Festival Queen coronation, Gospel Song Finals and World Reggae Dance to Mello Go Roun' and the lavish Grand Gala that people are still talking about. Does this mean the Stadium Complex has replaced the Ranny Williams Centre as the home base for the annual Emancipendence festivities? 

And speaking of winners, we have to give props to the original Dancehall Queen Carlene, who is still fit, fly and fabulous after all these years. Carlene was one of the judges for the World Reggae Dance Championships, and she was a sight for sore eyes. She's still got it! 

While 15 Usain Bolt Tracks & Records are set to spring up across the UK over the course of the next five years, it seems Fiction (its Marketplace neighbour) is on its way back to the top of the night-life food chain, having been refurbished, reconceptualized and 'reopened' for the word-hard, play harder VIPs, to the tune of US$1 million. "The room is completely new and we're not done yet," boasts smart businessman and big spender David 'Squeeze' Annakie


> Will you be tuning to The Rich & The Ruthless, a new soap opera produced by Victoria Rowell (The Young & The Restless), set to air on TV-J? 

> Is the upcoming Pride Jamaica Conference an invitation-only event or will it be open to the general public?

BEAUTY OF THE WEEK: Actress Lakeisha Ellison stays health-conscious amidst life-and-work challenges

RARE BIRD: "Things I know now I'm applying them. I'm honing my craft more," says the actress, pictured below with Frenemy costar Oliver Samuels.

"I don't worry. Things I know have no control over I don't let them bother me. I try to put myself at a better place at all times. That keeps me young. I focus on what's necessary," dishes Lakeisha Ellison, looking like a dime piece backstage at the Jamaican Shopping Club Theatre, where she is co-starring in her latest play, Frenemy, opposite Oliver Samuels, Dennis Titus and Volier Johnson. 

As she tells TALLAWAH, the production, which opened last month and runs for several more weeks before going on tour, is keeping her on her toes. In fact, it's made her realize some personal shortcomings. "It takes a lot out of you in rehearsals and in the show. It really gets in your brain," she says. "So I realized that I'm slacking up when it comes to exercising regularly and taking my vitamins and minerals." 

For this veteran actress and working mother of a teenage son, tending to her health and well-being is of paramount importance. It goes without saying. "Usually I'm the kind of person who will work out a bit in the morning, not a lot. I still do it, but I'm getting older. I like to stay healthy. I drink a lot of water because when I don't it shows on me," she explains. "I like the way I look. I love my body." 

With her curly diva tresses, hoop earrings and slender physique, Ellison is the very picture of secure womanhood. For her, being comfortable in her own skin has simply been a journey of self-acceptance, hard work and being principled. 

"I don't wear makeup unless I have a show. I don't party. I don't smoke. Staying away from those things helps you to keep your youth," notes the actress, who confesses that she's "not enjoying meat any more." "I love young people," she adds. "I have a lot of friends who I can depend on for support and I have a son, big man now, who has taught me to love unconditionally and never give up on your child." 

Ellison, who loves a good live performance (she enjoyed Spice's set at last month's Reggae Sumfest) has been having a solid run in local theatre, since emerging from the Area Youth Foundation and finding solo stardom. She's worked with everyone from Ellis International (He Said, She Said) to Jambiz Productions (Blind Spot) and is now doing a radio drama (Money Dirt on Roots FM) and gearing up to begin shooting a classic love story with a Jamaican twist for director Paul Bucknor and Firefly Films.

"I actually feel very good about my growth. Things I know now I'm applying them. I'm honing my craft more," says the soon-to-turn 40 Ellison. "I am comfortable with my career, but I know I have a long way to go."

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

CHAT 'BOUT: Phillips on modernizing agriculture, Chisholm on freedom of speech, Matalon on Tracks & Records' global expansion...

"For Jamaica I believe this signifies the first time a local, home-grown concept has evolved into becoming an international franchise. This confirms Brand Jamaica's potential and gives us widespread hope that we can export many other Jamaican brands through this business model." — FranJam's Gary Matalon confirming news that they've inked a deal with Casual Dining Restaurants Group (CDRG) to open 15 Usain Bolt Tracks & Records branches in the UK over the course of the next 15 years

"Over the last 30 years, we've had a tripling of the crime rate and the intake of cases into the system and the same number of courts. We are reaping the benefits of what we have sown because successive governments have treated the justice system like Cinderella without any hope of ever finding a prince." — DPP Paula Llewellyn speaking out on what she deems the decades of neglect of the judicial system by successive administrations resulting in an increased backlog of Home Circuit Court cases

"Too many of our farmers still operate within the support of marketing, which is available to other farmers in other countries. I say this not to blame anyone, but just to make the point that as we go forward into the next phase of our Independence, we must determine not only to feed ourselves but to feed ourselves by supporting a modern farming community." — Dr. Peter Phillips addressing attendees at last week's 65th anniversary staging of the Denbigh Agricultural show in Clarendon

"You definitely can't celebrate Prof. Brendan Bain's freedom of expression yet demonise others (like Bishop Howard Gregory and Garnett Roper) when they exercise their right to freedom of expression in a view with which you disagree." — Theologian Clinton Chisholm weighing in on responses to the Brendan Bain ruling and the renowned buggery-law debate

"The output from schools creates society. Students have so many rights these days you wonder what is wrong. People in the 40, 50, 60 age groups came up in the old school system and have a better sense of what's right and wrong. Now that that is removed, everyone is doing their thing because they have rights. And then you have these demands being placed on youngsters and the outcomes are unfortunate, as in this case." — Meadowbrook High School principal, Michael Peart, responding to the shooting death of promising 17-year-old student and Arnett Gardens resident Mickolle Moulton

FIRE & ICE: Tulloch delivers edge-of-your-seat thrills with latest hit, White Skin, Black Heart

THE WAY WE WERE: Rubie and Tulloch play ex-lovers who don't always see eye to eye.

White Skin, Black Heart (Probemaster Productions) 
Director: David Tulloch 
Cast: Neisha-Yen Jones, Kimberly Rubie, Gracie-Ann Watson and David Tulloch 
Venue: The Blue Room (Phoenix Theatre), New Kingston 

THE discerning theatergoer in the market for a well-spun, balanced and strongly acted play to take in this summer can hardly do any better than White Skin, Black Heart, the explosive new dramedy from writer-director David Tulloch. Tulloch scores again, leaving no stone unturned with this gut-punching exploration of relationship dynamics, mental health, trust and addiction, among other provocative issues. 

You’ll laugh, clap, cringe and get downright cross as you take in the antics of these folks caught up in bitter domestic disputes, messy breakups and the never-ending struggle to get it right or let go and walk away. In spite of its claustrophobic setting (a quibble for almost every play staged in The Blue Room) and one-note lighting, White Skin strikes powerful and authentic notes as it delves into matter of the heart. 

Neisha-Yen Jones gives a dynamite performance in the central role, playing Kerry, a good-natured woman who just lost her job in Kingston but has found love with a great man (Tulloch as smooth operator Nicholas), who has asked her to come share his MoBay apartment while she sorts things out. She gladly accepts. 

But, as Kerry soon discovers, some things are just too good to be true. Not only does Nicholas have an 11-year-old daughter (Nastassia Prendergast as Jillian), he has to share custody with the world’s craziest ex-wife – a snooty fair-lady-in-pearls named Madison (played to the hilt by newcomer Kimberly Rubie) – who makes it clear that she’ll make life difficult for her ex-husband’s new flame. Baggage, baggage, baggage.

But Kerry is no Mother Teresa, given the secrets she’s been harbouring from a past that Nicholas seems to know very little about. Meanwhile, Gracie-Ann Watson brings ample comic relief to Tension Central as Kerry’s ghetto-fabulous sistren Stacey, who preaches a powerful fight-for-your-man message. Shaun Drysdale rounds out the cast as her boo, Marcus. 

It’s a deeply felt and realistic show that brings the humour, soap opera drama and some erotic electricity and fireworks. 

Tulloch deserves kudos not just for a splendid script and assured direction but for a performance that’s both convincing and nuanced. Jones’ Broadway/West End experience comes in handy as she transforms Kerry into an embattled woman who owns her flaws and shortcomings and is willing to fight for her happy ending. And who can’t relate to that? Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Monday, 14 August 2017

NEWS & NOTES: Grace Jones biopic for TIFF premiere + First J’ca Pride Conference launched + FSC gets new Exec Director

PREMIERE: Grace Jones has had quite a life, so fans and film buffs are in for a captivating cinematic experience when they take in Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, the hotly anticipated biopic that gets it debut at next month’s Toronto International Film Festival in Canada. Directed by Sophie Fiennes, the film (which has a running time of 115 minutes) offers an unconventional, up-close-and-personal snapshot of Jones’ life, work and evolution, tracing her Jamaican roots (she was born in Spanish Town), personal trials and triumphs and the career highlights spanning the classic albums (including 1985’s Slave to the Rhythm) and big-screen roles (such as playing a Bond girl in A View to Kill). Speaking with the UK’s The Independent, the filmmaker noted that the project got off the ground because the famously private Jones was finally willing to let the world in. The biopic took five years to complete. “Grace had fiercely controlled her public image but made the bold decision to unmask,” Fiennes said in her interview. “The film is a deliberately present-tense experience.” The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is scheduled for September 7 to 17. Visit for details. 

CONFERENCE: Times they are a-changing. According to reports, the inaugural Pride Jamaica Conference was launched on Emancipation Day (August 1) at UWI Mona’s Faculty of Law, with presentations being made by stakeholders in the local LGBT community, including directors of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG). The conference, being planned for sometime later this year, has been dubbed a celebration of LGBT life, culture and issues in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the Diaspora. Andrew Campbell, one of the advocates championing the cause, says the conference represents a significant stepping-stone for the local gay community. Says Campbell, “[The conference is aimed at] creating a forum for LGBT persons, advocates and allies to come together to engage in meaningful dialogue.” 

APPOINTMENT: With his two-decades-plus experience in developing and leading successful economic and regulatory policy initiatives in the public sector, Everton McFarlane seems ideally cast in the role of the Financial Services Commission’s (FSC) new Executive Director. The appointment took effect August 2. As ED, McFarlane will lead the team’s mandate to deliver a balanced, consistent and effective regulatory programme “that will inspire confidence in Jamaica’s financial system.” A former Financial Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, McFarlane (above with finance minister Audley Shaw) has played key roles in driving the development of comprehensive frameworks on tax policy reform and financial services regulation. A UWI Mona graduate, he holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics.