Sunday, 13 February 2011

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: THE JOKE’S ON US (Why we can all learn a thing or two from Delcita Coldwater)

With her outrageously goofy costumes, messed-up dentals, blackened face and squeaky speaking voice – consistent with each stage play she appears in – you can easily be forgiven for dismissing the character Delcita Coldwater as just another caricature to come along and arrest the spotlight in Jamaican theatre. Like Shebada, another livewire creation from Stages Productions, Delcita is an irrepressible spring of laughter, not only on account of her quirky appearance and head-scratching eccentricities but for the punchlines that seem to flow stream-like from her mouth, sending her audience rolling in the aisles. But is that all there is to this unfailing comedic heroine? Does Delcita’s purpose begin and end with funny jokes? Far from it.

It helps wondrously that Delcita is played by an actress who knows all too well the importance of naturalness and conviction in the execution of any role. Andrea Wright, who is forever etched in my mind as the endlessly naive Pumpkin from Granny Rule, a Jamaican classic by my standards, is pitch-perfect in the role. In her hands, Delcita is resourceful, wise, diligent and, most important, unflappable. This is a multi-dimensional character, and though book smarts may not be her strong suit (to put it euphemistically), you can’t beat her in head games, street savvy and a good bout of tracing. Her numerous productions (most recently Over Mi Dead Body) offer a wealth of examples, too numerous to mention. But suffice it to say that she vividly gets her points across, even as she occasionally wallows in self-deprecation.

The disparity in their ages aside, it wouldn’t be a stretch to argue that Delcita possesses some of the same fierce instincts as the Tyler Perry-created Madea, the world-famous and beloved gun-toting, light-tongued, no-nonsense yet hilarious grandma, who will stop at nothing the see the right thing done. In very much the same way, Delcita is a stickler for integrity and discipline, never shying away from an awkward argument or confrontation that stands between her and the truth and fairness. And that’s exactly why, as the audience, we root for her tirelessly. Perhaps, too, many of us wish we had her kind of drive and willpower.

Even Wright, who fills Delcita’s shoes nightly on stage, is in awe of the woman. “The things that Delcita does, I wouldn't do. Delcita is brutally frank. She fears no one. It doesn't matter if you are the president of America or the queen of England," she told The Sunday Gleaner in an April 2010 interview. "When I am onstage as Delcita, mi gone. Behaviour off because I am totally consumed by the character. I do about 10 ad libs in the show, but don't ask me where they come from. I love the character. I adore the character and it's very therapeutic."

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