Wednesday, 29 October 2014

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK: Why Venus is the season's must-see + Hefty star power elevates Destiny

FULL HOUSE: These days well-made and worthwhile Jamaican movies are few and far between, and when they do appear they often come laden with sketchy acting talent plucked from all over. Jeremy Whittaker's coming-of-age tale Destiny is the latest of the lot, but thankfully the talents that get showcased are more quality than questionable. Having long shown that his gifts go further than the recording studio (he did a commendable job in 2006's Amen Corner at Centrestage), Chris Martin (sharing most of his scenes with female lead Karian Sang) makes ample use of the opportunities he gets to shine, displaying a laid-back natural style we don't always get to see in his music videos. With a film role now under his belt and an upcoming album from VP Records, we're intrigued to see what Chris will do next. And speaking of familiar faces, who knew Spice could act? Providing much comic relief as the no-nonsense baby mama intent on securing her young son's inheritance, the dancehall diva delivers a fierceness that could catch the eye of serious casting directors. Meanwhile, some of theatre's finest help to balance things out in the film. Munair Zacca banks a hefty chunk of screen time as a high-powered attorney specializing in results; Makeda Solomon turns on the waterworks as Martin's emotionally fragile big sis, and it was a real hoot to see Noelle Kerr bring the crazy and Nadean Rawlins decked out in full officer gear making a cameo as a traffic cop. Talk about playing against type! And, as I stated in my full-length review of the film (read it here), Sabrina Colie, who play's Sang's street-smart cuz Mystic, is a gem of a discovery who deserves to be better known. 

PLAY ON: Venus has everything a great play should: humour, spectacle, brilliant dialogue and puts forward solid arguments about humanity, race and class. But bringing it all together is perhaps the most important ingredient of all — sharp, memorable performances that keep audiences enthralled. This latest School of Drama major production absolutely satisfies. Buoyed by the sheer manic energy of their supporting players, Venus' trio of lead actresses deliver such impassioned work on the stage that you quickly forget you're watching students who are still studying the acting craft. In other words, the girls outshine the boys in this one. I'm talking about Eden Gibson (who brings such resolve and remarkable poise to the titular role), Danielle Jones (the play's antsy narrator who's job it is to explain the story's wider historical context and the more complex parlances) and, in a rollicking combo of the two, Samantha Thompson, as a controlling mother hen who is all about her coins. (Think Queen Latifah's Mama Morton in Chicago). As much as TALLAWAH is always pleased when the School of Drama shines the spotlight on original Jamaican works, bold pieces with universal appeal, very much like this Suzan-Lori Parks masterpiece, are always welcome. Venus is on again this coming weekend at the Dennis Scott Theatre, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you go see it. 

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