Monday, 27 February 2012

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Aston Cooke gives a sneak peek of Jonkanoo Jamboree

FIRST LOOK: Cooke, Harris, Cunningham, Mignott and Thomas.

If you need proof that indigenous Jamaican theatre is alive and well, look no further than the Phillip Sherlock Centre this coming May, where a starry cast will bring playwright Aston Cooke’s latest effort, Jonkanoo Jamboree, to life. Exploring everything from tradition and greed to poverty and resilience, the play came in for a dramatic reading on the weekend at the Talking Trees Literary Fiesta in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth.

“In this our 50th year, I chose to celebrate Jonkanoo,” said Cooke summarily, in his introduction of the piece, which, set in a coastal Jamaican village, features a raft of colourful characters with curious names like Mr. Buckingsworth and Miss Terrelonge.

Participating in the dramatic reading were Dorothy Cunningham, Dahlia Harris, Fabian Thomas and Akeem Mignott, whose robustly expressive voices made the lyrical story and interesting plot points positively leap off the page. In addition to the festive atmosphere that Jonkanoo conjures, theatregoers can expect references to the familiar menace of squatting and class warfare when the play finally hits the stage. At the same time, it remains to be seen how the whole thing will come together.

In the meantime, if there’s any conclusion to be drawn after witnessing Saturday’s entertaining reading it’s that Jonkanoo Jamboree, written in time for Jamaica’s Golden Jubilee, certainly promises to be an eventful affair, drenched in drama and humour and the ubiquitous struggle to eke out a living when times are tough. Above all, though, the play appears to engage with issues that have always mattered to its gifted writer.

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