Sunday, 23 January 2011

TALLAWAH REWIND: THE 10 BEST THEATRE PRODUCTIONS OF 2010

The life of the committed critic is never easy. Where do I begin? Very often 2010 seemed determined to deliver what is most unappealing about theatre everywhere. Endlessly disappointing fare that coasted on brand-name appeal (Tartuffe); spectacles in which frantic, overdone technical design upstaged the dialogue and the performers (Blinga Linga) and star-heavy productions of bad shows that simply left me befuddled (House Arrest). Still, there were those productions that fully reminded me of the singular power of theatre to delight, entertain and astonish. So let’s be grateful that in a year of creative dearth, there was ample bounty to allow poor Tyrone to count to 10.

1ST: WHITE WITCH (*Best of 2010*)
A lush, dazzlingly lit and well-crafted musical drama, it was the most remarkable triumph in Jamaican theatre in 2010, firmly anchored by Noelle Kerr and Philip Clarke (above) and Maylynne Walton-Lowe, who gave the year’s most compelling performance. “[A] near-masterpiece ... White Witch is a splendidly rendered and provocative musical production that melds history and fiction, superstition and romance...”

2ND: APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR
Barbara Gloudon’s best writing effort, Appropriate Behaviour offered the most savoury slice of ensemble work to hit the Jamaican stage in years, thanks in no small part to the cast of stellar actors, led by Nadean Rawlins, Chris McFarlane and the lavishly gifted Rishille Bellamy-Pelicie. “Authentically pitched and refreshing ... the frequent flashes of clarity and intelligence override the more forced moments, and the superb lead performances add to the story’s power and truthfulness.”

3RD: JUDGEMENT
Multi-faceted maverick Dahlia Harris surprised the nation – and herself – with the most explosive and gripping debut work local theatregoers have witnessed in ages – and the best chemistry of any stage trio of the season. “An unflinching story of betrayal, friendship and vengeance... powerful and superbly well performed...”

4TH: AGAINST HIS WILL
This fine-tuned revival of David Heron’s insightful and thought-provoking play had it all, including a remarkably stunning performance from Jerry Benzwick. “An exceptional rendering, prompted by committed performances from a cast of capable actors, who all handle their roles unflappably and with urgency...”

5TH: MIDNIGHT AT PUSS CREEK
The year’s bravest comedy-drama was Patrick Brown’s stab at family dysfunction and conspiracy, which dared an attempt at repositioning the classic murder mystery. “[Delivers] a blend of stellar technical work, deadpan humour, sardonic wit and that intrepid Jamaican element.”

6TH:
FOR BLACK BOYS

Fabian Thomas and his boys delivered the goods with this unconventional yet absorbing examination of the young male experience. Brian Johnson turned in a laudable, nakedly emotional performance. “For Black Boys is an enjoyable and high-calibre piece of theatre... satisfactorily executed...”

7TH: VIBES
Intensely acted with a brilliant performance from Camille Davis, this remounting of Patrick Brown’s crowd-pleaser never struck a pretentious note. “...boasts appealing, well-crafted characters and an easily recognisable setting. In short, it’s one of Brown’s most enlightening, engaging works.”

8TH: SINGLE ENTRY
The agony and the ecstasy of pursuing a life in “farin” bubbled delightfully to the surface in Aston Cooke’s fascinating, well-observed play, which provided a terrific vehicle for its pair of capable actresses. “...wins over its viewers with its extensive capacity for broad humour, its true-to-life, understandable circumstances and a pair of sharp performances from its terrific leading ladies.”

9TH: GRAFFITI
The kids are all right. The Jamaica Youth Theatre brought their A-game to the premiere league in 2010 with this turbo-charged and courageous experimental production, with intensity and power and style to spare. “...a gripping piece of dramatic/experimental theatre, fuelled by youthful exuberance and a rich, solid blend of word, sound, power and movement.”

10TH: A STATE OF AFFAIRS
Basil Dawkins followed up 2009’s top-prize-winning For Better of Worse with this tender and topical play that doesn’t take a profound plunge into the subject at its core, but still leaves a lingering impression and offers one of the year’s most poignant performances in the form of Ruth HoShing stealing the show. “...it’s entertaining and keenly observed and walks a crisp line between daring drama and side-splitting comedy.”

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