REMEMBRANCE: Gloudon (centre) and Dr. Hazel Bennett; Inset, the Pantomime Company's Faith Bucknor and Cadine Hall.
Monday evening’s observance of the centenary of Ranny Williams’ birth (hosted by the Pantomime Company on the grounds of the Little Theatre) was as much an acknowledgement of his vast legacy and how that name has become entrenched in our cultural consciousness as it was a fine opportunity for those who knew him best – relatives, former costars, colleagues – to share fond memories and anecdotes about the late great Mas Ran.
By the end of the evening, one overwhelming consensus emerged: he was a man for all seasons.
Brian Heap gave a lengthy, eloquent reading of Rex Nettleford’s “definitive” overview of Williams’ life, charting his humble beginnings to his meteoric ascension to iconic stardom. Michael Reckord and Rooney Chambers, the writer-director duo behind the final LTM Pantomime that Mas Ran headlined (1978’s Honorable All-Purpose and the Dancing Princesses) also shared poignant flashbacks, as did producer Ed Wallace, actor Volier Johnson and actress Grace McGhie, who each collaborated with Williams at some point in his illustrious theatre career.
“I think he was one of our heroes,” says McGhie, “and we must never ever forget him.”
“We must also remember the tremendous work he did in keeping Jonkanoo alive,” adds playwright and head of the Pantomime Company, Barbara Gloudon. “We just want to say that as long as we can, we’ll keep telling the Ranny story.”
In the meantime, the evening was decidedly marked by more than just quick speeches. The small gathering (mingling with a handful of Williams’ relatives, a few all the way from Mandeville) enjoyed a vibrant mélange of African drumming, live-band sounds, and lively folk singing inside the Little Little Theatre, courtesy of Pantomime Company members. In the end, Gloudon said it best: “We couldn’t have asked for a better birthday party.”
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