Monday, 24 October 2011

HARD-LEARNED TRUTHS: Bold and aggressive Masqueraders gets up in your face

FIGHT THE POWER: Cast members in Masqueraders.

It is perfectly understandable if one concludes after viewing Masqueraders, the latest major production by the Edna Manley College, that it’s a rebellion against standardized forms of theatrical entertainment. Judging by the occasional profanity-laced verbal assault on the audience (“Vultures!”), the absence of a structured set design and the unanticipated blend of songs, comedy and experimental drama, you would be well within your rights.

Perhaps more important, that was precisely Stafford Ashani’s main goal when he set out to pen this alternately thought-provoking and fiery ‘anti-play.’ But, as with all great writers, there is some degree of method to his madness, even in the face of the work’s flaws and excessive length.

In bringing to life Ashani’s unsweetened meditation on poverty, Rastafarianism and African ancestry, the students (under direction by Trevor Nairne) take the audience on a wild and rambunctious ride, complete with intermittent musical numbers and no shortage of hostility toward us, poor viewers – and each other. It’s about a dirt-poor troupe of travelling performers, getting set to put on a show but is in need of a theatre to house the performance. They’ll have their way if they can impress the slick-talking proprietor Heirstone (played with over-the-top showiness by Akeem Mignott) and keep from tearing each other apart.

An obvious agenda of societal subversion courses through Ashani’s frequently witty dialogue and the scenarios he creates for his hard-headed characters, most of them thinly sketched. But the student actors prove more than capable of handling and bringing some spark to the material. Cadene Solomon as Fatty (the name speaks quite clearly for itself) and Omaro Mazlyn as the group’s intimidating leader, Day, are memorable standouts.

With the exception of a few low-wattage scenes (and the overall running time of the show), Masqueraders is a solid piece of theatre that attempts to worm its way under your skin and, for the most part, succeeds.
Tyrone’s Verdict:

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