Tuesday, 18 March 2014

WHAT WE HAVE LEFT: Pieces of the past collude and collide in a powerful remount of An Echo In The Bone

TRAGIC LEGACY: Scott's classic is a riveting tale of history and memory.

An Echo In The Bone (School of Drama Productions)
Director: Eugene Williams 
Cast: Abena Vincent, Andre Tucker, Toni-Ann Johnson, Georgia Ricketts, and Ricardo McFarlane
Venue: Dennis Scott Theatre, Edna Manley College

With its gripping exploration of familial relationships, folklore, ritualistic sensibilities, and even chattel slavery, An Echo In The Bone, Dennis Scott's seminal classic, easily ranks among the all-time greatest Jamaican works, on par with Louis Marriott's Bedward and Trevor Rhone's Old Story Time

This stage monster has come in for a lacerating revival by the School of Drama, which began its limited engagement on Friday night, with a cast of competent, energetic student actors under the guidance of a director (Ruined's Eugene Williams) who fashions the dialogue-heavy story into a riveting tale of rebellion and redemption, history and memory.

Set in a pre-Independence Jamaican village, the play follows Miss Rachel (Abena Vincent), who is hosting a nine-night for her dearly departed husband, SonSon (Andre Tucker), who apparently drowned himself in the wake of killing a white plantation owner. Within this tragic framework, the story pulls together a wildly diverse cache of characters: Georgia Ricketts as iron-willed shopkeeper Madam; Toni-Ann Johnson as Brigit, torn between Rahel's two sons; Owen Boyd as mischievous Dreamboat, and Ricardo McFarlane as mute drummer Rattler.

Spanning the early nineteenth century leading all the way up to the 1930s, the play moves swiftly across its time periods, illuminating the horrors of the Middle Passage, the complex bonds among the members of Rachel's clan and, most provocatively, the vestiges of colonialism.

Besides the too-sparse set and the occasional clashing of dialects, the School of Drama's version of Scott's two-act play (incidentally staged inside the studio theatre that bears the playwright's name) boasts more strengths than weaknesses. It's best asset, though, are the well-drawn people populating the plot who come in for believable portrayals, more or less, from the entire cast. As Rachel, Vincent is a riveting anchor.

"I'm afraid to look into the future 'cause it look too much like what what gone before," one of the men remark midway the show's latter half. It's a moment that utterly captures the mood and message of this multi-layered work steeped in insight and intrigue. Tyrone's Verdict: B+

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