Saturday, 30 January 2016

LEADING LADIES: Sandrea Falconer and Paula Llewellyn explain how they maintain such a balanced life

“I try to have a positive outlook always, and I also go church. I grew up in the Anglican church, so it’s always nice to have that spiritual balance as well. I have to carve out the time. I’m a mother; I have a 17-year-old, who is abroad at school at the moment. So it’s very important that you strive to maintain a positive outlook. Sometimes you meet up on challenges; you look at them as an opportunity. I have a very close circle of friends, some from school days. If any of these challenges get to you, and I need to vent, I will vent with them privately. And, also, I believe that I am fortunate that the work that I do is grounded on a strong foundation and belief, having been honed by my parents, about giving service above self, which is very important. People tell me that I still seem to have a passion for what I , and the fact is that I love being a prosecutor.” – Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Paula Llewellyn 

“You’re a human being, so you can’t do everything. You have to pick wisely and balance all the work you do. Which is a lot. You are needed around the clock and you have to balance that with some time for yourself and family. And I think that’s the most important thing. There are times when the job is not as stressful, but there are times when you have so many different things going on that you’re pulled in many directions. And so it’s tough and it is challenging. But, you know, we are working for the Jamaican people, and that is what’s important. I’ve committed myself to contributing to my country and whatever it takes I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.” – Minister of Information (Office of the Prime Minister), Sandrea Falconer

STAGE LEFT: New Kingston’s Theatre Place gets a new lease on life as the Phoenix Theatre

SECOND ACT: Apart from his neat skills as a playwright, what we’ve always admired about David Tulloch is that he’s a man of his word. About a year ago, in a TALLAWAH interview, he emphasized that he and his Probemaster Entertainment team members had set their sights on opening their very own theatre space in Kingston, in the wake of the Pantry Playhouse’s sudden departure from the scene. A property on Ruthven Road seemed promising, but apparently that fell through. Now comes news that Haining Road’s long-struggling Theatre Place is about to find new life as the Phoenix Theatre, thanks to Tulloch’s visionary leadership and business savvy. From what we’ve gleaned, the theatre house is getting a solid makeover. New amenities are being installed to add to its overall appeal and to, more or less, maximize its potential. It’s about time. The first production to be hosted inside the renovated space, we hear, is a remount of Dahlia Harris’ Same Difference, which had a short run at Merle Grove High’s Karram Speid Auditorium in late December. Same Difference is scheduled to open at the Phoenix Theatre on Ash Wednesday, February 10.

INCREDIBLE LEGENDS: The arrival of a new theatre production headlined by the incomparable Leonie Forbes is always cause for rejoicing. The Thespy and Actor Boy-winning actress is reteaming with her For My Daughter director (David Tulloch) and costar (Rosie Murray) to bring to audiences Not My Child, an emotional domestic drama that promises to provoke thought and tears. It’s the latest effort from Tulloch (writer/director/producer) and Probemaster Entertainment, which marks its 16th anniversary this year. With Bangarang heading on its national tour, Not My Child will play at Green Gables Theatre as of Feb. 10, the date also earmarked for the premiere of Dorothy Cunningham’s latest production, Mama Take Me to Church, a faith-based ensemble drama, playing at Hope Road’s YMCA. Cunningham was last seen in 2014’s Lotto Money (at Theatre Place), opposite Peter Heslop and Munair Zacca.

STAGE MAGIC: Watching the Jamaica Junior Theatre Company’s (JJTC) production of Pan at the Philip Sherlock Centre, it becomes immediately clear that a lot of hard work and detail went into the preparation process. The whole thing comes together splendidly, and the show’s art direction is by far its strongest asset. The show looks and sounds fabulous. The spirited young team running things at the JMTC these days (Danielle Stiebel, Jodi HoLung, Samantha Chin-Yee, et al) is a wildly imaginative bunch who don’t shy away from bold moves and creative risks. To say the least, they ought to be encouraged and strongly supported as we strive to keep rousing musical theatre alive in Jamaica. Kudos!

MAN OF DISTINCTION: Remembering Barrington Watson – artist, icon, mentor

MASTER CLASS: Watson (centre), spending time with students Katrina Abrahams and Sebastian Elliott, June 2015.

Speaking with a local newspaper earlier this week in the wake of her husband’s death, Doreen Watson expressed her belief that among the persons who will most greatly miss Barrington Watson are his students who looked to him as mentor and inspiration. In hindsight, we understand why. 

TALLAWAH was the last online publication to talk with Watson at length. Last June, we met for a face-to-face interview that coincided with an art show at Old Hope Road’s Gallery Barrington (organized by Kingston on the Edge), featuring the legendary artist and a handful of his students showcasing some of their finest works and fielding questions about passion and process. A truly memorable occasion. Barry was absolutely generous and candid as he reflected on his life and his light. A light that has now flickered out.

After ailing for some time, Barrington Watson died at his St. Andrew home on Tuesday, surrounded by relatives. He was 85 years old. (According to reports, he was diagnosed with cancer last February.)

By all accounts, Watson lived to tell stories with his paintbrush and inspire others, including Jamaica’s emerging generation of artists. And he was good at what he did. As a rising star in his heyday, he was considered a unique talent among his peers, and the Jamaican art world quickly made room for his extravagant visual appetites and exquisite eye. 

“I think most people would agree that [when it came to] realist art he had no equal,” fellow art legend and former chief curator at the National Gallery of Jamaica, David Boxer, recently told an interviewer. “He was the most highly trained artist, and he brought those academic principles to art. Quite simply a display of great competence based on extraordinary drawing skill.”

Watson, whose most well-known pieces include Mother and Child (1958) and Conversation (1981), hailed from Hanover but attended Kingston College before enrolling at London’s Royal College of Art. A member of the Order of Jamaica and a recipient of the Gold Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica, he held the distinction of serving as the first director of studies at the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts (now a part of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts).

“Watson is the father of the art movement in Jamaica,” says filmmaker Lennie Little-White (They Call Me Barry), “the one who made people realize that artists are more than just painters, the one who made people respect art. He inspired a lot of the artists in today’s generation. He will be greatly missed.”

Esteemed actor George Carter also passed away recently, prompting culture minister Lisa Hanna to issue a statement hailing both Carter and Watson as icons of the arts whose national contributions can never be forgotten. “Both Barrington and George not only dedicated their lives to expressing their own unique creativity while building a legacy,” Hanna says, “but also dedicated their lives to promoting Jamaica’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.”

> LIFE & LEGACY: Read our June 2015 "Flashback Friday" piece on Watson

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

FATHER FIGURE: Linton Kwesi Johnson on reggae’s evolution, his legendary career, Chronixx and Etana

ICONIC PRESENCE: "Only in Jamaica," LKJ insists, "has dancehall overshadowed reggae."

This semester, at the University of the West Indies’ Reggae Studies Unit, a research-paper course being taught by Dr. Carolyn Cooper, largely explores the body of work created by iconic poet, author and reggae artiste Linton Kwesi Johnson. Johnson has lived and worked in the UK for decades, but he usually comes to Jamaica to visit his mom, who resides in Montego Bay, St. James, at this time of year. So the Department of Literatures in English invited him to give a ‘Reggae Talk’ on campus Tuesday evening dubbed “Reggae by Accident.” What an eye-opener! “I think he’s a very important poet,” says Cooper, the former head of the Reggae Studies Unit. “And I thought he deserved his own course.”

Johnson was very candid and thorough as he reflected on his creative artistry and legendary career that he feels became his by ‘accident.’ “Looking back I am sometimes astonished that for 40 years I’ve been able to maintain a reggae career,” admits Johnson, rocking his signature top hat and spectacles. “Why astonished? Because I had no ambition of becoming a reggae artiste. My journey to a reggae career was a circuitous one.”

A 2005 Silver Musgrave Medallist, the author of five poetry collections, the first Black poet featured in the Penguin Classics Series (Mi Revalueshanary Fren) and the founder of LKJ Records, Johnson says back in the day he found himself morphing into an avid reggae collector and soon embarked on the path to becoming a reggae poet.

Today he marvels at the genre’s evolution from “rebel music” to global phenomenon – and cringes at the fact that European countries are now staging bigger and more well-supported reggae festivals than Jamaica. “Only in Jamaica,” LKJ insists, “has dancehall overshadowed reggae.”

When it comes to the Joss Stone/Billboard/Reggae Artiste of the Year episode, LKJ says it’s much ado about nothing. “Joss is somebody I admire as singer,” says the poet, who has lived in England since 1963. “And there are quite a few reggae artistes on that album [Water for Your Soul], including myself.”

Whether he was recalling his session with Miss Lou back in 1982 (while doing research for a BBC series), his Black Panther days or receiving “a lot of hate mail” from detractors, Johnson’s presentation was never short on insight. In the end, you realized that for LKJ reggae was way more than music. “It helped to bridge a social divide between black and white communities,” he says. “It was a force against cultural oppression.”

When it comes to the new generation of reggae ambassadors, Johnson sees greatness in at least two standouts. “I did a show with Etana sometime ago, and I think she’s very talented,” he offers. “And I think Chronixx is very promising.” 

> MAKING A POET: LKJ riffs on his journey

MAKING A POET: LKJ riffs on his journey from dub artiste to reggae revolutionary – and back again

THE MESSENGER: "I didn't see myself as a reggae artiste," admits Johnson, 63, renowned for his brilliant poems.

To understand how and why Linton Kwesi Johnson became a poet and revolutionary is to take a trip down memory lane and start at the very beginning. It’s a journey that references everything and everyone from Brixton and W.E.B DuBois to Andrew Salkey and the captivating power of reggae. A journey encompassing several decades, quite a few continents and at least one instance of police brutality. All that and more came to light during Johnson’s “Reggae Talk” inside UWI Mona’s Neville Hall Lecture Theatre on Tuesday evening, for a presentation dubbed “Reggae by Accident.” The title speaks volumes of how LKJ became the man he became.

Linton Johnson was born and raised in Chapelton, Clarendon, but he moved to London in 1963 as a young chap, and his life would never be the same. Though a stranger in a strange land, it was while living in England that he discovered his calling. He became a member of the Black Panthers, devouring “Black consciousness” literature, including a copy of DuBois’s seminal The Souls of Black Folk, which changed the way he read a book. “It stirred something in me,” Johnson recalls.

But he never abandoned his roots. Over time, he developed a taste for Caribbean works. The British publishing house Beacon Books, he said, exposed him to a wide variety of titles, and soon writers like Andrew Salkey became sources of inspiration. He also read Langston Hughes and other African-American voices, he listened to the blues, jazz and Count Bassie’s Groundation album, and binged on reggae. He listened to so much reggae that “I wanted to turn Rasta, but I couldn’t embrace the whole ‘Haile Selassie is God’ idea.”

Then he had an epiphany. “After being exposed to so much African-American poetry, blues poetry and British poetry, I said to myself, ‘I want to write reggae poetry.’” His first attempt came in 1972, coinciding with a vicious beating he got from the Brixton police for writing down their information after witnessing them having an altercation with another party. Add to that the British climate of socio-economic hardships, segregation and victimization, which largely inspired his first book Voices of the Living and the Dead. He was anxious to get it published, but it was rejected by many publishers.

But he remained undaunted, and it eventually got published in 1974. One poem stands out from that era, the self-explanatory “5 Nights of Bleeding.” Dread, Beat and Blood, his second volume of poetry (Salkey helped him get it published), “became an instant success and I made my name off that book.”

Salkey was not the only trooper LKJ had in his corner. He got a lot of encouragement from playwright Yvonne Brewster, “a pat on the back” from Sam Selvon, and the list goes on. “It gave me enormous confidence to get the nod from people I had tremendous respect for,” the poet recalls.

Bigger things were on the way and, by 1975 – at the plum age of 25 – he did his first dub recording. And that’s when things really began to take off. “Because I was developing this reputation as poet in the UK, I was approached by a filmmaker who wanted to make a documentary about me,” Johnson remembers. It eventually aired on the BBC to rave reviews.

Johnson also remembers that it was around this time he first met Bob Marley. LKJ was working as a librarian in North London and Bob was in town to shoot scenes for his “Is This Love?” video. They were introduced and “I gave him a copy of Dread, Beat and Blood.”

By this time, the name Linton Kwesi Johnson had gone global and he started getting invitations to do concerts and other performances from all over Europe. His gigs in France and Germany were particularly memorable. “The money sweet mi,” he admits, laughing.

Then the big man came calling. He signed a deal with Chris Blackwell’s Island Records to make two albums – Forces of Victory and Bass Culture. “They did so well that Blackwell eventually offered me a six-album deal and I said no. And you should have seen his face,” Johnson remembers. “I didn’t see myself as a reggae artiste.” But he eventually caved in and did a couple more albums for Blackwell: LKJ in Dub and Making History.

Then he had another epiphany: why not start his own record label? And that’s how LKJ Records was born in 1981. “But it didn’t take off until around the end of the 1980s, early ’90s,” he says. Johnson’s first release on LKJ Records was the Jamaican Mikey Smith’s popular “Mi Can’t Believe It.” And it just goes to show that though he spent so many years away from the island, LKJ still identified as Jamaican. Even his speaking voice, decades later, heartily suggests upper Clarendon.

Johnson remembers coming back to Jamaica, circa the mid-1970s, to do some research. As an artiste, he was relatively unknown by the masses. It was Mervyn Morris who introduced him to the likes of Oku Onuora, Mikey Smith and others – then students at the Jamaica School of Drama, who were leading the revolutionary dub poetry movement. When Johnson first heard them he was pleasantly stunned. “I instantly felt some validity to know that what I was doing back in England was being done by others here in Jamaica,” he says.

Around that same time, he remembers, he performed for a tough crowd as the opening act for Peter Tosh at a Kingston venue – an experience he calls “a baptism of fire” but he came out “relatively unscathed.”

As the years went by and he morphed into an international sensation, LKJ became convinced it would soon be time to hang up the mic. “I retired because I still felt that reggae was not the thing for me,” the icon says now. Besides, as a family man and a businessman, there were other things he wanted to do. LKJ, who is seldom seen without his top hat and spectacles, says he lives with no regrets. At least once per year, he flies in from England to spend time with his mother in Montego Bay.

By his own admission, if he could do it all over again, he probably wouldn’t change a thing. “I am very grateful for reggae music,” he says. “Ah reggae put mi weh mi deh.” 

 > More LKJ: The living legend talks reggae, hails Etana and Chronixx

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN: Exuberant, enjoyable Pan guarantees a rollicking good time

THE BRIGHT SIDE: Viibrant colour and sonic power add to the musical's overall appeal.

If you happen to be in the vicinity of the UWI Mona Campus this weekend, please drop by the Philip Sherlock Centre to see the Jamaica Junior Theatre Company’s Pan. You are in for a rollicking good time. A thrilling, tuneful song-and-dance hit, the show is brought to life by an energetic group of teenagers whose youthful exuberance go hand in hand with the magical spirit of adventure that the show celebrates.

Based on J.M. Barrie’s timeless fantasy Peter Pan, the JJTC’s fresh adaptation puts a charming and modern Jamaican spin on the beloved children’s classic, similar to what they accomplished with shows like Alice (2013) and 2012’s Hercules. (Come to think of it, the company has presented a working of Pan before, back in 1995 to be precise, so this mounting marks a hugely successful update.)

Peter Pan may be the boy who refused to grow up, but in productions across the globe (Broadway included), the role is often turned over to a young lady. Most recently, Allison Williams (HBO’s Girls) got to play the boy in green for NBC’s Peter Pan Live! Now, the JJTC has followed suit, tapping Zoe Daniele Chin Sang to fill the role. A petite pixie-muse with a big voice, she brings panache and winning charisma to the part, even fitting snugly into the Robin Hood-esque costumes. 

As the story goes, Pan (ever looking for some trouble to get into) pays a night-time visit to the Darlings – Wendy (Kiandra Edwards), Michelle (Paige Andrade) and Simone (Gabrielle Mair) – and with (reluctant) aid from his fairy sidekick Tinkerbell aka Tink (Courtni Spencer) sprinkles them with fairy dust. Before you can say 1, 2, 3, they’re off sailing through the clouds headed for Never-Never-Land. It’s a dream come true for these impressionable kids whose doting parents (Andrew Laidley and Sydnie Greaves) don’t have a clue that they’ve left the house. It’s now up to Wendy to play big sister.
Basking in their newfound freedom, the girls bond with “natives” (the coconut-loving Lost Ones), but in a place like Never-Never-Land, trouble is never far away. Soon, the Darlings become the target of some ruthless pirates, whose foul-tempered leader Captain Hook (Philip Wheatle, highly commendable) is hungry for revenge against Pan for the loss of a hand. Traps are set, battle lines are drawn, setting the stage for an epic showdown that brings the show to a booming climax.

Though the final scenes in the production feel hastened, the young performers are so innocently committed to what they’re doing, you really don’t feel like complaining. Overall, the show looks good and the music sounds wonderful. Numbers like “Pure Imagination”, “Anything Can Happen” and the eternally optimistic “Keep on Dreaming” are standouts.

Co-producer and director Danielle Stiebel, Samantha Chin-Yee and Jodi HoLung (and the rest of the creative team) deserve kudos for an undertaking that yields some impressive results. Set maestro Michael Lorde truly outdid himself with a pirate-ship design that combines stunning craftsmanship – and creative imagination. And that’s exactly what drives a show like Pan, full of colour, sonic power, vibrant costumes, humour and untameable spirit of adventure. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

TRACK SIDE: Calabar makes winning play with first high-school synthetic track and inaugural McKenley/Wint Classic

FIT TO SPRINT: The technical efficiency of athletes like Chris Taylor (up front), says Clarke, is now being improved.

For coach Michael Clarke, the best thing about having a new synthetic six-lane track at Calabar High is that now he has a first-class surface on which to train his boys for the highly competitive track-and-field seasons ahead. After all, the Rabalac Lions are gunning for their fifth consecutive hold on the ISSA Boys Champs trophy this year.

“This kind of surface is so much better to prevent the kind of injuries we would have had if we were still training on the dirt. And in terms of technical efficiency of the athletes all that can now be improved,” Clarke tells TALLAWAH, while watching over his young charges as they mentally prepared to compete at the inaugural McKenley/Wint Track & Field Classic at the school on Saturday. “All in all, it’s a great [resource] for the guys; they have been utilizing it quite well. We are quite happy that we now have this facility.” \

That Calabar High is the first Jamaican high school to make such a coveted addition to their sports programme is only dwarfed by the fact that they are the first secondary institution in the English-speaking Caribbean to make such a move. The Calabar Old Boys’ Association must be immensely proud, not to mention Principal Albert Corcho, who told us of the plans last year of the plans they were making, and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who officially unveiled the track with a fierce sprint of her own on Friday.

The likes of 400M phenom Christopher Taylor and Olympic medal-winning past student Javon Francis sizzled at Saturday’s meet, eliciting deafening cheers from the massive crowd as they sped to victory in their respective events. Several of their Team Jamaica peers were in attendance, including recovering sprinter Dexter Lee. “I think it’s a good look for Jamaica and the development of young athletes. It’s a great achievement for Calabar being the first high school to get a track like this,” says Lee, who watched the action from track-side. “I think it shows that Jamaica is making progress in athletics and we can start looking for greater things now.”

Meanwhile, the McKenley/Wint Track & Field Classic represents Calabar’s homage to two Jamaican legends of the sport, Herb McKenley and Arthur Wint, whose relatives were on hand to receive special tokens during the meet’s opening ceremony on Saturday.

For the record, sports administrator and a living legend himself Vin Lawrence believes an event like the McKenley/Wint Classic should have been added to the annual sporting calendar years ago. “An event like this is long overdue, but we are happy that it’s now happening,” he tells TALLAWAH, on his way to grab a seat in the VIP booth. The new synthetic track, Lawrence predicts, will provide a means for Calabar to share their god fortune with other institutions. “One of the problems we’ve had in the development of our young athletes is that they don’t have regular access to facilities like this,” Lawrence insists. “So one of the objectives is for other schools to benefit from it.”

“A classic school getting the first synthetic track in Jamaica and the Caribbean: Calabar you are well deserving.” - Natalie Neita-Headley

Monday, 25 January 2016

THE TALLAWAH INTERVIEW: Mike McKenley opens up about what made his father, Herb, truly great

IN THE FRAME: McKenley, with a piece of art depicting his late father at Saturday's track meet at his alma mater, Calabar High. Below, a vintage shot of Herb McKenley.

Mike McKenley could talk for hours and hours about his father, the late great Herb McKenley, the pioneering track-and-field stalwart who attended Calabar High and ensured that his son followed suit. Decades later, Calabar and the McKenleys are having a reunion of sorts, thanks to the advent of the school’s McKenley/Wint Track & Field Classic, which had its inaugural staging on Saturday. Mike, now a 58-year-old giant himself and the father of a 10-year-old girl, flew in from the United States to attend and to collect an award on behalf of his father. He spoke to TALLAWAH about the moment, growing up McKenley, and Jamaica’s new wave of athletic powerhouses:

TALLAWAH: How does it feel to see your father’s legacy and memory honoured in this way?
Mike McKenley: It’s just a feeling of tremendous pride. His beginnings started at Calabar and grew into the legacy that the country now experiences. He always said that Jamaica’s greatest success lies in its people, and this field of dreams that we’ve been fortunately given is where the next generation of Herb McKenleys and Arthur Wints and other legends will rise from.

TALLAWAH: And I’m sure the rest of the family feels the same way.
M.M.: Absolutely. It’s a tremendous responsibility. The legacy is left to myself, my brother and my sisters, and it’s a responsibility that we take very seriously, in respect of his contributions to Jamaica and to Calabar High School.

TALLAWAH: Would it be a stretch to say that Herb McKenley deserves to be made a National Hero? 
M.M.: I certainly believe that what my father accomplished and did was amazing because what it was about was about investing in talent, investing in people and believing that through sports they can develop and become good citizens in their communities and their country. And in keeping with the Calabar motto, which says, ‘The utmost for the highest.’

TALLAWAH: What would he have to say about Jamaica’s current wave of world-beating track-and-field superstars?
M.M.: I think he would be excited, he would be proud of what we have accomplished as a nation. He would be immensely proud of the contributions that Calabar athletes have made to the nation. He would be happy to see that what he helped to establish was being cemented and nurtured. And I believe he’s watching.

TALLAWAH: What’s life like for you these days?
M.M.: I live in Atlanta. I work in retail. I work with Giorgio Armani, which is a luxury brand. I’ve been in retail for 33 years. I worked with Saks Fifth Avenue and I’ve also worked with Neiman Marcus. So a lot of the things that I learnt at Calabar [about] commitment, focus, discipline and hard work and living up to that motto still live with me, in terms of my day-to-day experiences. I remember telling somebody recently that one of the most gratifying experiences of my life was being a young man attending Calabar. It’s been a long time. That was in the ’70s. And to see what still flourishes makes me proud, makes me feel that my father would be gratified and happy to see the sons of Rabalac flourishing.

TALLAWAH: What was Herb like as a father?
M.M.: He was a disciplinarian. He was firm. He believed that nothing should be given; it should be earned, and that anything worth having demands sacrifice and hard work. And he taught me the lesson that before I ask for anything I must be willing to help myself. And these are the things I carry on from what he has taught me and I’m now trying to pass on to my 10-year-old daughter. He was fun-loving. He could be very curious, and my sisters and brothers say I’m a replica of him. 

TALLAWAH: That you’ve inherited these qualities.
M.M.: Yes, and one of the things I hope our young people understand, whether you’re a Calabar old boy or a KC old boy, is that we are Jamaicans first. We must invest in each other because that will continue the prosperity and success of who we are as a people. And that’s what he believed.

THEATRE FLASHBACK: 5 sensational leading ladies courting awards buzz

STAGE PRESENCE: Reid (right) and young costar Dania Brown in Force Ripe.

Last time, we put the spotlight on five actors whose dramatic and comedic turns on the stage we believe could morph into bonafide awards-season contenders in the coming months. This week, the ladies get their time to shine. Here, in no particular order, are five performances we found both magnetic and memorable:

DEON SILVERA in Same Difference
Silvera is no stranger to bringing vivacity and verve to the role of strong Jamaican women, and in Dahlia Harris’ side-splittingly funny comedy-drama, her Mini-Bar is a mix of unflappable warrior and thoughtful matriarch, whose maternal instincts are as macca-sharp as her ‘tracing’ vocabulary.

The Actor Boy winner proved she can carry an entire show on her slender shoulders, slipping into the role of an illiterate prostitute whose chance encounter with an aging man of letters (Hugh King) sets them both on a course that forever changes their lives. Maye has played the rough-around-the-edges type in numerous outings before, but here she unearths the kind of dramatic depth we always knew she had within her.

SUZETTE BARRETT in Prayer Partner
Stealing scenes opposite seasoned colleagues Michael Nicholson and David Tulloch, Barrett provided audiences with nonstop comic relief, as a revivalist sister who gets regular “text messages” from the Holy Spirit. Seriously. A solid addition to a body of work that already includes standout roles in Thicker than Water and Stanley, Fay, Pularchie & P.

CAMILLE DAVIS in Duppy Whisperer
Appearing seasonally with the Jambiz crew, Davis consistently manages to be part of the ensemble without dimming her own megawatt star power. Her portrayals are increasingly nuanced and convincing. Case in point: her compassionate turn as Adassa, a put-upon wife who longs for a better life than the one she’s got playing sidekick to her witch-doctor husband (Glen Campbell), with whom she’s constantly bickering. Ah marriage…

BELINDA REID in Force Ripe
The most intriguing thing about seeing Reid portray a monstrous mother in this heated domestic drama is how much her character closely resembles Monique’s role in Precious. We don’t necessarily share her outlook or agree with (some of) her choices, but for the most part we understand where she’s coming from, and the anger (rooted in pain and disappointment) that seems to drive her.

> LEADING MEN: 5 buzzworthy male leads

Saturday, 23 January 2016

THEATRE FLASHBACK: 5 outstanding male performances courting awards buzz

CHARACTER WORK: Hendricks and Rowe starring in Samson & Di Liar.

Time flies! It’s that time of year already when we normally pay tribute to the outstanding performers and productions in Jamaican theatre who could become key players as awards season heats up. As far as actors in a lead role go, it was a year of embattled lovers, conflicted fathers and no-nonsense duppy whisperers, and the list goes on and on. TALLAWAH has a tendency to play favourites, so here are five sharp performances (in no particular order) that got our stamp of approval and could gain momentum as the Actor Boy Awards draw closer: 

VOLIER JOHNSON in Same Difference 
After almost 50 years of delivering stage performances, Johnson still knows how to win us over with that mix of fatherly charm and riveting stage presence. It goes a long way in anchoring his knockout performance (opposite Deon Silvera and Maylynne Lowe) in Dahlia Harris’ endlessly funny potboiler about domestic drama and class relations in upper St. Andrew. Johnson at his best. 

GLEN CAMPBELL in Duppy Whisperer
Dr. Seefur is easily one of the most intriguing character portraits we’ve encountered on the Kingston stage all year. Brought to full-bodied life by the incomparable Campbell (with just the right blend of menace and vulnerability), the character is all no-nonsense verve, Jamaican bravado and cheeky punchlines. In other words, classic Glen Campbell. 

NICHOLAS AMORE in Saving Grace 
A talented rising star who’s been on our radar since wreaking havoc in Bad Apple, Amore digs even deeper this time around. Playing an aging police veteran whose extramarital dalliances have dire consequences, Amore musters up the conviction to offer a nuanced performance fuelled by emotional depth. We consider him the nephew of acting greats Andrew Brodber and Alwyn Scott. 

TONY HENDRICKS in Samson & Di Liar 
He hasn’t performed for theatre audiences in ages, but Hendricks showed he’s still a force to be reckoned with. In this supremely funny comedy-drama (brought to us by rookie producer Scarlett Beharie), Hendricks played a homeless man/deportee blessed with amazing musical talent. When he forms a duo with another a down-on-his-luck drifter (played by Ricky Rowe), hilarity ensues. 

DENNIS TITUS in Guilt Trip 
Some of the greatest actors ever have long made it clear that it ain’t easy playing a “mad” person, but it can be loads of fun. Titus takes to the challenge with relish in Basil Dawkins’ latest effort, disappearing into the role of a son pushed to the brink by his father’s (Oliver Samuels) betrayal. To say the least, it’s Titus’ most memorable performance since starring in 2012’s Stanley Fay Pularchie & P at New Kingston’s Theatre Place. 

> FLASHBACK 2015: Check out our 10 favourite movies of 2015

Friday, 22 January 2016

SUPER GIRL: Rhodes Scholar Sherona Forrester on hard work, lessons learnt, and having the time of her life

ALL ANGLES: "I realized from early that sense of leadership as a call on my life," shares the 24-year-old, pictured below with Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen and Terri-Karelle Reid.

Sherona Forrester hails from cool, quiet Mineral Heights, situated on the outskirts of May Pen, the Clarendon capital. “That’s where I lived for most of my life, and it was just a fun place to grow up. It’s the kind of community where everybody calls to everybody, and if you didn’t say howdy-do, when you got home you might get a beating,” she remembers, obviously tickled by the memories. “So I’m a little country girl who is very respectful and have a lot of manners, and that foundation has a lot to do with the person I am today.” 

Forrester has been on quite a journey since those formative years. As we all know by now, the 24-year-old Glenmuir High alumna is Jamaica’s current Rhodes Scholar, a Reggae Girlz standout, an overall sports buff, and a UWI Mona-trained economist. A terrific role model for young Jamaicans, a tomboy at heart, not to mention a great conversation companion, Forrester (who heads to Oxford University in September to do a Masters in Econ) epitomizes brainy-cool. TALLAWAH had a gabfest with her following Thursday morning’s National Leadership Prayer Breakfast at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. Here are excerpts from our conversation: 

TALLAWAH: What does it mean to be the Rhodes Scholar of Jamaica? 

Sherona Forrester: It’s really about being an ambassador and a role model because to whom much is given, much is expected. So I have to set a very good example for the young people to follow. So far, so good. It has opened many doors; it has opened my eyes to the fact that there is need for a lot more role models in Jamaica. And I am striving to continue to be a positive impact on Jamaicans. 

TALLAWAH: Was it always a goal of yours to become this kind of ambassador for your country? 

S.F.: In some ways, yes. From my early days in church, I would stand out, and I was deputy head girl at my primary school [Mineral Heights Primary] and I was head girl at Glenmuir High. And then at UWI I captained several of my sports teams. So I realized from early that sense of leadership as a call on my life. And in the long run my ultimate goal is to become a philanthropist. 

TALLAWAH: You’ve accomplished so much in sports and academics since your coming-of-age years at the widely acclaimed Glenmuir High. What is it about that Clarendon-based school that it continues to produce so many champions and legends? 
S.F.: One thing is the interest that the teachers put into the students. School ends at three and some of them don’t leave ’til six o’clock every day. So they are investing in us and they help to mould us to believe in ourselves and to do our very best. Also, the school’s motto says, ‘Flagrans Veritatis Studio’ – Burning with the Zeal for Truth’ and that really drives us. And, finally, we believe in holistic development, so you are encouraged that it’s not enough to be bright, to just do well in school. You are also to participate in another activity. And when you participate in that activity you’re to do well and not to the detriment of your school work. So people tend to do well in all areas of life. 

TALLAWAH: Apart from landing the prestigious Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University, what do you consider your greatest achievement? 
S.F.: So far, it’s representing my country at the highest level in football, with the Reggae Girlz last year on our quest to qualify for the World Cup. That has probably been my greatest feat, aside from, of course, becoming the Rhodes Scholar. 

TALLAWAH: Speaking of sports, did the whole Chris Gayle/‘Blushgate’ episode take you by surprise? 
S.F.: (Laughs). It was a bit surprising. That’s all I have to say. 

TALLAWAH: Ultimately, what kind of contribution do you want to make nationally? 
S.F.: Nationally, I want to have a foundation that focusses on females in sports. My foundation will be geared towards the youth because I realize that with investment, the rewards can be great. So I plan to invest heavily in the development of the youths, especially mentally, so that, not just in sports, they will excel in all areas of life.

TALLAWAH: What’s your advice for young Jamaicans who have ambitions of one day ascending to your level? 
S.F.: If you want good, yuh nose haffi run. You have to set a plan, you have to work towards it. So if your plan is to get to X, if [factors] in your life won’t get you to that point you have to let them go. You need people who are positive around you to help you get to where you’re going, and negativity just kills that spirit of thriving and moving forward. And you have to know that that comes with discipline, determination and hard work. 

>> TOP 5: Forrester plays favourites as she shares her culture picks 

MOVIES: My favourite movie is In Time. It’s a movie where time is money, and I’m very cognizant of that fact. 
BOOKS: I’m not much of reader but growing up I loved books about geography and animals. 
FOOD: I love bread, run-down and toto. 
MUSICIANS: I like John Legend. I like inspiring music. 
MENTORS: My high school teacher who became my music teacher and mother, Mrs. Doreen O’Connor, stands out. She really took me under her wing. And also Cedella Marley. Her investment [in the Reggae Girlz] made me so much better, in terms of my athletic ability and being exposed to greater resources, travelling and experiencing various levels of expertise. 

RAYS OF HOPE: Prayer Breakfast committee comes to the aid of Trench Town-based home for the elderly

HELPING HANDS: Students representing the Jeun-Espoire Jamaique visiting residents at the home in March 2014.

Every year the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast (NLPB) organizing committee takes on an outreach project that they support through funds raised at the annual event. This year, all the proceeds will benefit the Eira Schrader Home for the Aged, a down-on-its-luck residential facility for homeless senior citizens located in the Federal Gardens, Trench Town.

Named after the Swiss native who established the home back in October 1986, the home is capable of accommodating close to 25 residents, but due to the deterioration of the facility, it’s now limited to less than 10 persons, ranging in age from 70 to 85 years.

The project was brought to the attention of the NLPB committee following a commitment given by the Errol Rattray Evangelistic Association (EREA) and 12 churches that participated in a seven-month operation in Trench Town, culminating in an evangelistic crusade. With the support of the Trench Town Ministers Fraternal they have decided to throw their full support behind this worthy cause – a home (catering to a handful of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens) that has fallen on hard times.

Rev. Dr. Peter Garth, a long-standing committee member has seen first-hand the pitiful state of the facilities at the Eira Schrader Home. “When I went there and visited the residents, I was immediately broken because I saw the need. When you go and see the persons who are there it will break your heart, to see how badly run-down the place is,” Dr. Garth, also a Justice of the Peace and a key figure with the Associated Gospel Assemblies, tells TALLAWAH. “There is no question that the [elderly] persons there are very malnourished, and so we have also sought to get medical attention for them. There is a long list of persons who [want to be accommodated] but they can’t take in anybody else because of the limited resources.”

Schrader, the Good Samaritan who started the facility could maintain it for only five years. Since 1991, that task has fallen to community hero Lloyd Ferguson, who has been supervising and maintaining operations out of his own pocket, with aid from the Bob Marley Foundation (small salaries for two staff members), the Jamaica Red Cross (one square meal Mondays-Fridays) and the Rose Town Christian Church (cooking gas). 

Mr. Ferguson could not be reached for comment, but Dr. Garth hails him as a stalwart fighting the good fight. “[He] has done very well for the residents. In fact, he’s one of the persons who physically helped to build that place, and when you see how badly run-down it is, it’s really a shame,” Dr. Garth points out. 

The funds collected during Thursday’s prayer breakfast will be used to cover the costs of repairs and refurbishing and other necessities. Corporate entities have been invited to offer their support, and Dr. Garth says the response so far has been encouraging. “We are hoping that these elderly persons will be able to at least enjoy a certain level of dignity as they live out their final years,” the prominent pastor reflects. “It’s a small project but sometimes bigness isn’t always power. Our hope is that the home will get the support that it needs.”

HEALING THE NATION: “We cannot tax our way out of all our problems” – Pastor Glen Samuels

LET THERE BE LIGHT: Simpson-Miller, Sir Patrick Allen and Holness participate in a symbolic show of unity at the event.

In a fired-up and no-holds-barred keynote address at Thursday’s National Leadership Prayer Breakfast – the 36th staging – at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, Pastor Glen Octavius Samuels urged Jamaicans at all strata of the society to pull together in the fight against the myriad social ills plaguing the country at this time. Samuels, President of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists was particularly vociferous while drawing attention to such issues at the disheartening crime rate statistics, the “overburdened and underfunded” health-care system and moral decay affecting wholesome family life.

“It is not just up to the political leaders, but in leadership at all levels, if we are going to build a nation to the honour of God,” Samuels emphasized. “We cannot tax our way out of all our problems. There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed with what is right with Jamaica,” he added, stressing the need for transparency and accountability at all levels.

The strongest audience reaction during Pastor Samuels’ presentation came, however, when he put the focus on morality and the state of the Jamaican family. “There is too much irresponsibility among our male and female folk. We need more responsible father in this country. It is not enough to be a sperm donor,” he said.

Pastor Samuels said that as a result of the breakdown in values and the family structure, our society has become “coarse, crude and calculatedly cruel” – a once “lovely and peaceful paradise” that’s become overrun with knives, bullets and senseless bloodshed. The solution, he firmly believes, rests in collective and tireless team effort. “We must all share the responsibility of building a better nation blessed by Almighty God…. Doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do is what will exalt the nation.”

Each year, the NLPB organizing committee chooses an appropriate theme to reflect the church’s message to the nation. The 2016 theme is “Righteousness exalts the Nation.” First held in January 1981, following the General Elections of 1980, the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast arose out of a need to foster greater national unity, particularly among political and civic leaders. Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller were all in attendance this year.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Chris Brown’s Royalty yields a jaunty and coherent mix

ART & LIFE: Brown's latest fuses tuneful R&B and modern hip-hop sounds.

To say that Chris Brown has hit a steep evolutionary curve since he burst onto the scene back in the early 2000s would be an epic understatement. From weathering multiple crises to becoming a father last year, the 28-year-old Philly-bred crooner is on his grown man these days. And his new album, Royalty, heralds this latest chapter in an intriguing and continuing success story.

A mix of the old Chris Brown that fans have grown accustomed to and the musings of a modern R&B-hip hop thug, Royalty delivers one tuneful highlight after another, which is saying something for an album that largely explores sexuality and the perks of living the good life. At its best, though, the album showcases the singer’s impressive vocal range.

They’re not all runaway hits, but each track on Royalty stands robustly on its own. From the bold-faced opener “Back to Sleep” (about late-night hanky-panky) to the sure-footed closer “Little More”, Chris cruises along with assured delivery and a supreme confidence in his material.

Try to sit still during a club-ready up-tempo jam like “Zero” (about the highs and lows of young love) or be unmoved by the heartfelt strains of tunes like “Wrist” and “Proof” – both of which are perfect for radio and feature clever songwriting.

For the most part, the lion’s share of these tracks would not be out of place on albums by R. Kelly and Usher, two R&B alphas to whom younger cats like Brown owe a great deal for paving the way and showing how it’s done. Of course, Chris Brown has gone his own way, creating a musical identity that’s instantly recognizable but with a certain respect for the likes of Michael Jackson.

In any case, we consider Exclusive, Chris’ best effort to date, but Royalty scores. It’s a solid piece of work that more than stands up to scrutiny, coming from an artiste whose musical expressions are those of a young ‘king’ but one who’s not afraid to keep it real when it comes to women, wealth and the wonders of being young and gifted, Black and free. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

> BEST TRACKS: “Little More,” “Zero” and “Back to Sleep”

COFFEE TALK: News and notes, starring Ebony Patterson, the Sunshine Girls, and Usain Bolt

HIGH PERFORMANCE: Sunshine Girls to welcome back former head coach?
At the recent National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards in Kingston, TALLAWAH caught up with netball legend Connie Francis, who revealed that she could be returning to full-time coaching duties with the senior Sunshine Girls sometime this year. “I’m supposed to be doing some work with the girls on a regular basis, but I don’t want to say too much about it until it’s been confirmed,” she told us during a brief interview at the ceremony. Her guarded optimism is understandable, given the status quo at Netball Jamaica, which has just welcomed a new president (Paula Daley-Morris) in the wake of Marva Bernard’s departure after 10 years in the post. Technical Director Jill McIntosh’s time with the national programme has run its course, but what will a shake-up in the rest of the coaching staff mean for Minette Reynolds and her assistant Annette Daley? We say all hands on deck, as the girls look to reclaim their place among the top three competing nations in the world.

IT’S AN HONOUR: Bolt wants to empower young athletes in retirement
Reigning Sportsman of the Year, Usain Bolt, gets asked ad nauseam about his plans for life after track-and-field. That said, we welcome the fact that he’s giving consideration to becoming an ambassador for the sport he so cherishes. “Whenever I do retire, I will try and stay in the sport,” he tells The Gleaner, which recently gave him an award for his outstanding achievements on the track last year, as one of their 2015 honorees. Lascelles Chin and Dr. Peter Phillips are among the others. “I will try to help motivate people or be an ambassador for the sport in the best way that I can – and just try to keep helping the sport and keep pushing it forward.” The Gleaner honour is the latest accolade to float Bolt’s way in recent weeks, the chief highlight being his sixth hold on the National Sportsman of the Year crown.

HOME TO HARLEM: Ebony Patterson gears up for solo exhibition
Her wildly imaginative and boundary-pushing creations can be found in art collections across Jamaica and the United States and rank high among the highlights in the current ‘Masculinities’ show at the National Gallery. Now comes news that avant-garde artist Ebony Patterson will open a one-piece solo exhibition (yes, you read right) at the Studio Harlem in New York on March 24. Titled “…when they grow up…”, the work will be on view through June 26.