Monday, 16 September 2019

SOCIETY, SOCIETY: From Russia with Love; Of Becca, Dexter and Mr. Seaga’s grave…

>> These days, members of the jet set are on cloud nine, as it’s been announced that plans are being finalized for new flights out of Russia and South Africa to Jamaica. According to the tourism ministry, these latest developments could lead to as much as a 10.2% growth in the overall revenue generated for the sector in 2019. But that’s not all. As of December 2, LATAM Airlines will commence service between Lima, Peru and Montego Bay, with up to three flights per week. Meanwhile, Russian airline Pegas Fly is so excited they will be using bigger jets for their Jamaican trips, possibly increasing passenger load to Montego Bay to 500 persons per trip. We feel special! 

>> Whatever celestial province the late Noel Dexter has travelled to – what a music they are now enjoying! The celebrated musicologist, composer and University Singers artistic director, who crafted some of the most delightful and patriotic selections in the Jamaican Songbook, will be greatly missed. He was in a league all his own. 

>> On another note, surely Mr. Edward Seaga’s grave at National Heroes’ Park will be given a proper tombstone like the other burial spots. It cannot remain like that. It’s an eye-sore compared to the other icons’ graves on the property. 

>> And speaking of the departed, legendary journalist and commentator Tony Becca has been posthumously inducted into the Caribbean Media Association Hall of Fame. No one is more deserving of such an honour than Mr. Becca whose writings on everything from cricket to Caribbean identity truly took us beyond a boundary. 

>> The corporate scene has bid farewell to Ricardo Nuncio, who has left Red Stripe to return to Mexico to take up another assignment. His successor, Luis Prata, has very big shoes to fill.

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Jean-Paul Menou gears up for his School of Drama directing debut

I HAVE A ‘DREAM’: As a speech and drama lecturer at the Edna Manley College, Jean-Paul Menou is always looking for fresh opportunities to engage his students. This semester he’s getting to challenge them (and himself) in a creative and exciting way: by mounting a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, his directorial debut for the School of Drama. “I’m excited about it because I’m getting to expose my students, particularly my first years, to Shakespeare. It’s one of his best plays in my opinion. And it’s not a tragedy, so it’s not heavy,” he tells TALLAWAH, seated in his upstairs office on campus. Menou, who has earned renown as quizmaster on Schools’ Challenge Quiz, is not one to take creative liberties with the Bard’s work but, as an enterprising director, he is thrilled about trying a thing or two with the classic text. “Over the summer, while I was working on the script, I was thinking of translating it from old English to modern-day English to make it easier for my students,” says Menou, who just started auditions for casting, “but I was worried about losing the essence of the work. So what I decided to do instead is put together a glossary with the script.” Ah, the lengths some teachers will go for their students. The production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens at the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre in mid-October.

ON WITH THE SHOW: Celebrating another milestone year, Father HoLung & Friends (the beloved ghetto priest is turning 80) are bringing back Isaiah this season. The mega-musical, which revisits the Biblical narrative, plays at the National Arena (including school shows) September 25-29 and October 2-4. Once again, the prolific Greg Thames is bringing his directorial brio to the table, transforming Father HoLung’s vision into a theatrical spectacle. Wynton Williams (Musical Director), Paula Shaw (choreography), among other, are expected to reprise their roles in the crew. As for the actors involved, Stephen-Rhae Johnson, L’Andre Saddler and Jodi Palmer are set to lead a massive cast.

LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN: It’s that time of year again when we turn our attention to the performers and productions generating awards season (Thespy, Actor Boy) buzz. And I’m happy to report that, from my vantage point, the categories are shaping up nicely. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be doing the usual breakdown (Best Shots, Possibles, Long Shots) as we work our way up to the big announcements in January. Stay tuned. Exciting times are ahead…

HOUSE FIRES: Intriguing plot, strong cast brings It Stops Here to satisfying end

POWER OF TWO: Murray and Chambers head up a solid cast of players.

It Stops Here (Whirlwind Entertainment)
Director: Andrew Roach
Cast: John Chambers, Rosie Murray, Rae-Anna Murray and Peter Heslop
Venue: Jamaican Shopping Club Theatre (Green Gables), Kingston 

A lot of the abuse that takes place in the domestic space is because of enablers. Sadly, too often mothers are guilty of this. 

Witness the scorching new stage dramedy It Stops Here, in which a matriarch (Rosie Murray as Duchess), who has a narcotic relationship with money, enables the physical abuse of her daughter (Rae-Anna Murray as Olive) at the hands of a wealthy and powerful married man (John Chambers as William Gillespie), who serves as their personal ATM once he’s getting what he wants. And what he wants is total control of Olive’s life.

With an oblivious wife at home, William sets up his mistress in a swanky uptown apartment and keeps the money flowing. (Duchess, of course, is not complaining.) But William is a brute, one with a violent temper and an acute case of paranoia. (Olive is cheating on him with whomever she is having a phone conversation.)

Because of this he repeatedly puts her in her place with a couple sharp slaps or a chokehold. One time, after a particularly explosive episode, he practically leaves her for dead. 

A vagrant (Peter Heslop as Roy) then enters the house, steals her two cellphones and discovers her body out cold on the floor. Leaping into action, he ends up reviving her. So thankful for being sent a saviour, Olive shows her gratitude by offering him a place to shower, a change of clothes and some money.
But when Roy returns to the apartment a few days later, a super-drunk William turns up and the ensuing sequence of events is not pretty. Even more hilarious, when Roy and Duchess come face to face, their meeting sparks a blast from the past that blows the whole story wide open.

Written and directed by Andrew Roach, who knows how to deepen a plot (despite a hefty serving of melodrama), It Stops Here benefits tremendously from the committed performances of the strong cast, particularly John Chambers (consistently robust) and Rosie Murray, who disappears into the juicy role. 

Intriguing, in spite of its shortcomings, the play will resonate with anyone who has ever paid a price for the selfish desires of others – and the courage it takes to bring about your own survival. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

>> Interview: John Chambers talks art and life

Friday, 13 September 2019

REAL TALK: Ikaya shatters the notion that women are the ‘fairer sex’

BAD GIRL: The songstress sparks an open dialogue with her new video.

LET’S face it: we are living in a brave new world, where the disparities in opportunities for men and women are disappearing fast. Especially in the wake of #MeToo, the gender wars are locked in a toe-to-toe battle. A deadheat. 

Wither the damsel in distress. Say hello to the fearless female. She’s hungry. She has a competitive gleam in her eyes. She’s taking over – from the boardroom to the criminal underworld.

On the heels of movies like Widows and The Kitchen comes a provocative new video from reggae-soul songstress Ikaya that turns on its head the argument that some behaviours, lifestyles and practices are just for men.

The video reintroduces the entertainer as a tough cookie, the leader of an all-black-clad, gun-toting female posse giving new meaning to “sexy badness” (as the song is called). Ikaya and the girls inhabit the roles so well that their performances transcend role-playing. These girls are depicting a reality many of us don’t care to face: anything that men can do, no matter how dangerous and terrifying, women are matching.

As the video attests, the gangstress world is real. (Fathers, hide your sons!) Society frowns on women in certain roles, so it’s not yet a mainstream phenom. But, rest assured, it’s coming. 

“Thug life” and “menace to society” will soon be gender neutral. And by the time that happens, a woman will be occupying the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Blame it on climate change. A new day is dawning.

5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED IN LIFE: Schoolteacher and actress Natoya Lee on faith, family and always being true

STRENGTH OF CHARACTER: "I try to be my authentic self at all times," Lee says.

AS a schoolteacher (returning to the classroom at Naggo Head Primary this month), one of Natoya Lee’s favourite on-the-job activities is writing jingles for her young students to better understand the concepts. As an evolving woman (now 40), Lee herself is constantly on the learning curve, savouring valuable lessons that straddle the worlds of her personal and professional lives. Here, the mother, church choir director and emerging actress talks about what she’s learned: 

1. The Key to a Happy Marriage 
You can’t do it on your own; it takes both partners. And a lot of prayer (Laughs). You can’t be selfish in a marriage. And it’s also true that communication is crucial. 

2. Keeping the Faith 
Friends are great for support. For me, constant communication with the Lord is also important. Having a supportive group of people who watch out for you helps; people you can be accountable to and to cheer me up when my spirit is down. 

3. Family Life 
Being by yourself gets lonely, so I’m glad I have my daughter and my mom, who are just towers of strength. When I retreat from the world, I know I can go home and they are there to help me take a load off, especially after a hectic day. 

4. Staying true to you 
It’s not the easiest thing sometimes. There are expectations of you, and sometimes if you are not careful you will lose sight of the fact that you are more than the expectations. I try to be my authentic self at all times, and that’s why people are drawn to me. 

5. Being a Jamaican woman 
I have pride in that (Laughs). I love my hips and my full figure. I love that I am a Caribbean woman.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

GOOD MEDICINE: A taste for red grapefruit / How to beat a migraine / Blackberries on the local market

STRANGE FRUIT: Where in Jamaica can you get blackberries to purchase? 
Farm-fresh blackberries are on sale in Kingston at Butcher Block, Shop A7 at Upper Manor Park Plaza – and in the Second City at The Steakhouse on the Bay, located at the Montego Bay Yacht Club. Call 876-383-3746 for more information. 

HEAD STRONG: How to manage your migraines 
1) Know your triggers: They vary by individual and can range from extreme heat and exercise to sugar and alcohol. 
2) Keep a consistent schedule: When your sleep is irregular, you’re more prone to migraines. 
3) Control stress: Relaxation therapy, yoga and meditation can help. 

OUT OF THIS WORLD: Are there red grapefruits in Jamaica? 
One red grapefruit is said to contain about half your daily recommended dose of Vitamin A – a nutrient key to skin and eye health – which is more than 25 times the amount found in white grapefruit.

NEW MUSIC REVIEW: Hear these fresh tracks from Maxi Priest, Sevana, Lila Iké and Sean Paul

>> Maxi Priest feat. Shaggy – “I’m Alright”
These two entertainment legends first worked together on the smash hit “Close to You.” Nearly two decades later, their chemistry feels as fresh as ever on this funky, repeat-worthy duet (off Maxi Priest’s upcoming album) that’s all about surrendering to the magic of melodies, riffs and harmonies. When Maxi declares, “My heart beats to the music,” you have to believe him. [A-]

>> Sevana – “Nobody Man”
We’ve always had a certain respect for strong, independent women who speak their mind. Sevana fits the bill, and on this feisty, mid-tempo jam, the fast-rising singer-songwriter and talented vocalist comes across as a sister who knows her worth and refuses to settle for less than the best. What’s more, she emphasizes, you can’t put a price on class and self-esteem. [B+]

>> Sean Paul feat. Squash – “Life We Living”
Creating a chill vibe, Sean Paul and Squash trade rhymes on this smooth, mid-tempo club banger that references everything from seductive senoritas to high grade and champagne to treating every day like a holiday. It’s easy to envy these big spender who are clearly from the YOLO school of thought. [B+]

>> Lila Iké – Where I’m Coming
From With her breakout hit “Second Chance” and her guest spot on Protoje’s “Not Another Word,” bonafide rising star Lila Iké put reggae lovers on notice. She’s back with this rootsy gem about substance over hype and keeping it real with yourself and others. A melodic fusion of honour and humility. [A]