DREAM OR NIGHTMARE: Leonie Forbes and Alwyn Allen in a scene from Pot O' Gold (Photos: Stuart Reeve)
Pot O’ Gold (Area Youth Foundation)
Director: Sheila Graham
Cast: Lakeisha Ellison, Alwyn Allen, Woleta Francis and Leonie Forbes
Venue: The Theatre Place, New Kingston
Tyrone’s Verdict: B-
Jamaica’s oral tradition, of course, has long had its way with popular story character Anansi, turning him into a folk hero of sorts. So no one would have been surprised in the least if he received the same brash treatment in Pot O’ Gold, the latest theatrical offering from the Area Youth Foundation.
Written and directed by Sheila Graham, the production blends indigenous folklore, drama, suspense and music for a humorous and sometimes raucous production that explores themes of family, corruption, religion, thug culture and politics. Occasionally, the storytelling is tripped up by the garish staging and frenetic pacing, but once the story settles in, though, a little miracle unfolds.
You know trouble is imminent when Anansi is featured in a play, let alone appearing in the opening sequence. After a dreamlike encounter with a wise woman who identifies herself as Nanny (Leonie Forbes in a delicious cameo appearance) informs him that gold is hidden somewhere in Rainbow Park, the small, troubled community where he lives. Anansi (Alwyn Allen) weaves a web of deceit among several residents, ultimately hoping to claim the prize for himself.
Among those unwittingly ensnared in the trickster’s scheme are Angelina (Lakeisha Ellison), a good-natured salon operator, who is rumoured to have hidden the gold; her energetic good girlfriend Rosie (Kesha Masters); a corrupt pastor (Ainsworth Case) and an ambitious local thug (Courtney Swaby) who does the bidding of a power-hungry woman politician (Woleta Francis).
Graham’s meticulous direction and occasionally witty writing is one of the highlights. The actors do enough to get the message across through their performances, but with the exception of Francis (who offers a rangey and impressive breakout turn), there aren’t any strong standouts.
Still, despite its few shortcomings Pot O’ Gold is an entertaining family affair with a message that is as relevant as it is powerful.