ON CRAFT: Jean-Paul Menou (right), Michael Sean Harris and Melward Morris in Playwriting 101: The Rooftop Lesson
FORMING part of the art-centric activities of Kingston on the Edge (KOTE) 2009, Theatre on the Edge, staged recently at the Philip Sherlock, shone the spotlight on a group of distinguished and on-the-come-up Jamaican theatre practitioners. This team of valuable players left the “ram-packed” audience craving only more with eight delicious 10-minute plays. Even performers with less familiar names left an indelible impression on viewers.
At the same time, directors, who must make a playwright's vision accessible and affecting for actors and audiences alike, also get their share of credit for thrilling the packed theatre comprising industry insiders and avid theatre lovers. For the most part, the eight small ensemble pieces delivered equal parts razor-sharp comic timing, profound emotional intuition and the occasional dramatic highpoints.
Among the winning highlights were the Pierre Lemaire-directed Apologies, starring Fae Ellington and Alwyn Scott. I only caught the last few minutes of this play but from what I took in, Ellington’s performance lifted the mysterious, hilarious and deceptively farcical piece. Jean Small, playing a heavy-hearted mother who goes to visit her son (Chris Daley) in prison in Too Late To Cry, was just as mesmerizing in her portrayal.
Then there is the blissfully rib-tickling Playwriting 101, featuring Jean-Paul Menou (The Teacher), Michael Sean Harris (The Good Samaritan) and Melward Morris (The Jumper) that wittily explored conflict, language and emotional investment in the art of playwriting. Entertaining and ‘educational’, the Brian Heap-directed piece offered one of the most enjoyable pieces of the night drawing attention to important and usually overlooked details of the craft. Also on the night’s bill: Carolyn Allen’s To Be Content (with Brian Johnson and Peter Parkinson); Keith Antar Mason’s For Coloured Boyz and August Wilson’s The Janitor, directed by Small.
Making her long-awaited directorial debut, Nadean Rawlins capably gave direction to a brawny young cast and the effervescent writing of Amba Chevannes during Miss Burton Gets A Promotion, about a neurotic and overly-driven career-woman (a remarkable Rishille Bellamy-Pelicie) who clearly suffers from a severe case of high self-esteem. (A gem from Rishille: “This is not a diary; diaries are for weak people. This is a log book of my life. Legends should keep logs.”) Priceless stuff. Not surprising, since Chevannes is the writer behind such immensely engrossing mini-plays as Dinner With Eleanor and The Last Bloom. I wonder what she’ll give us next.
Noelle Kerr and co-star Shayne Powell were a juicy joy in Karl Williams’ refreshing Random about a young interracial couple (Dorothy and Jamal) grappling with love, drugs and religion in New York City. Continuing her impressive run on the local theatre circuit, Kerr savoured ever sap in the part, wringing all emotion from Williams’ informed writing while sharing discernible chemistry with her rookie stage partner. Williams knows how to write conflicted characters, particlaurly ballsy young women (see Not About Eve) and with Random he delivers more undeniable evidence of his gift. Overall, Theatre On The Edge 2009 saw some of Jamaica’s finest stage stars sharing great rapport, consolidating and sharing a group understanding of theatrical production.