LAUGH RIOT: The energetic cast in action.
Jamaica Fifty 2 Rahtid (Aston Cooke Productions)
Director: Dahlia Harris
Cast: Deon Silvera, Akeem Mignott, Camille Wilson and Marlon Campbell
Venue: Pantry Playhouse, New Kingston
I laughed. I heaved. I had a jolly good time. People often ask me what makes a comedy or even a satirical revue work best, and I always tell them it’s that rare combination of honesty and the courage to ‘go there’. Jamaica Fifty 2 Rahtid, currently ripping up the Pantry Playhouse in New Kingston, is not afraid to ‘go there’ and does so with remarkably hilarious effects.
True, there are the noted shortcomings, including the stark fact that the show could be at least 10 minutes longer, but the vibrant highlights are so numerous (particularly in the show’s second half) that any complaint becomes almost immaterial. The Aston Cooke/Dahlia Harris creative pairing is a sterling match, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a duo that can better bring to life a production that dually celebrates and skewers what makes us so unique as Jamaicans.
Divided into two acts of 11 sketches each, Fifty 2 Rahtid offers a hugely enjoyable programme that seems to cover the wide-ranging spectrum of where things on our blessed island stand today. Whether it is our perpetual penchant for capturing land (“The Eviction”) or firmly holding our leaders to account (“The Case of the Missing Green”), the show manages to imbue – and at times readily reimagine – serious hot topics with a measure of respectful humour and the intermittent Grub Cooper-crafted, Kevin Moore-choreographed musical number.
Did I also mention that the show doesn’t skimp on the socio-political commentary, taking on everything from the sale of Air Jamaica to the repeated hiring of “government consultants” to the bitter rivalry between our two opposing political parties? As one character wittily observes, “The PNP say they love the poor, so they make sure they create some more.”
As for the four-member cast, the performers deliver. Is it at all possible for Deon Silvera to give a bad performance? Ever the natural comedienne, she adds a fiery jolt of pure comic bliss to her series of characters, including a put-upon market woman, a cautious returning resident, and the super-posh Faye. Marlon Campbell (“Lottery Scam”) and Camille Wilson (a convincing Sista P) have their bright moments, but in the end, their younger colleague Akeem Mignott steals the spotlight with his utterly fascinating character portrayals, including a standout rendition of the island lament “I Live In Jamaica.”
Mignott is comically splendid but in a surprisingly grown-up manner that suggests an actor heading into full-fledged artistic maturity. Then again, the nurturing Harris tends to have that effect on emerging talents – most recently coaching Ainsley Whyte to an Actor Boy win in God’s Way.
Overall, if nothing else, Fifty 2 Rahtid proves that Cooke has lost neither his cunningly sharp eye nor his wicked wit. He’s brought theatregoers another goodie bag of satirical fun and excitement that’s a worthy addition to the ‘Rahtid’ canon. Bits like “Take Me To The Ball” and “Hello Mrs G” are richly divine – but “Cellular War,” which reimagines the LIME/Digicel rivalry as a fiercely funny showdown between two hookers? Pure genius. It made my night. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+