A quick overview of Jamaican theatre over the course of the last decade will reveal that when it comes to stage productions that capture the sheer manic energy, colourfulness, and all-round uniqueness of Jamrock and its natives, very few match the authenticity and vigorous dynamism of Aston Cooke’s Jamaica 2 Rahtid series, which boasts a groundbreaking 2005 original and its sequel, Pupalick, which arrived three years later.
Four years later comes Fifty 2 Rahtid, Cooke’s homage to Jamaica’s Golden Jubilee, which cooks up a potpourri of comedy, colour and crazy, peppered with the history of an island nation observing a remarkable milestone. At the same time, Cooke makes it clear that while the template remains the same, the new show, being helmed by Dahlia Harris, offers a fresh spin on the formula. “Jamaica 50 is a theme that is a common thread through the whole show. This time around, it’s not a compilation of sketches; we are looking at where we are now as a nation and where we are headed.”
Cooke, whose other popular and prize-snagging credits include Single Entry and Concubine, has nothing but high praises for the team that’s been assembled to bring the production to vivid life. “I’m excited because the music is going to blow you away. Grub [Cooper] really outdid himself this time around. And Dahlia’s directing gave the show a twist and took it in a new direction,” explains Cooke. “And as for the cast, we have a new group of actors, along with Dahlia and Deon Silvera, who bring a kind of energy that the show never had before.”
Meanwhile, it’s a special year so, of course, Cooke has zero intentions of slowing down. October will see the long-awaited debut of his new folklore-centric effort Jonkanoo Jamboree, to be directed by Brian Heap and performed by the University Players at Philip Sherlock. “It’s a musical and a folk tale and I enjoy writing those kinds of stories,” says Cooke. “It has a little bit of everything, including some history, legend and magic.”
For much later this year, Cooke has set his sights on conquering local television. Why not. “I am working on a TV series that focuses on Jamaican youth,” he tells TALLAWAH. “It’s a comedic sitcom that I think will be great for local audiences. I want it to be ready for December.”