CLASS ACTS: McCaulay bonding with her son Sekai; (below) the cast of Woman Tongue.
At age 52, and with over two decades’ worth of solid work under her belt, actress Bertina McCaulay has made a successful career out of tackling emotionally hefty roles that resonate deeply with her in more ways than one. But starring in the oestrogen-spiked stage hit Woman Tongue (remounted this past weekend at Mona’s Philip Sherlock Centre) just so happened to engage with ideas she’s been toying with in recent times – notably shifting power structures, complex human relationships, and women on top. Here, the veteran star of film (Cool Runnings), stage (Amen Corner; Love and Marriage and New York City) and TV (Royal Palm Estate) has a quick chat with TALLAWAH.
TALLAWAH: Woman Tongue boasts a female writer and an accomplished all-female cast. How come we haven’t seen more female Jamaican writers coming to the fore?
Bertina McCaulay: It’s interesting because we do need more women writers to be telling our stories. It’s still a male-dominated field, so we need to see more of the women stepping up. Our local male playwrights are doing an excellent job, but the women can do it just as well.
TALLAWAH: On the performance side of things, an exciting new wave of young actresses has leaped to the fore (namely Shantol Jackson, Shanique Brown, Julene Robinson, et al) and are making their presence felt. What do you make of their emergence?
Bertina McCaulay: I love it, love it, because we have to be about renewal. You can’t keep the same set of people in the spotlight forever. We have to start playing the mothers and the grandmothers. Just like Leonie Forbes. She was young once; she used to play the daughter and then she started playing the mother and then the granny. Mi soon start play granny, too. I think. (Laughs).
TALLAWAH: On a more serious note, Portia Simpson-Miller has asserted that she will not be stepping down as PNP party leader any time soon, and aspiring challenger Peter Bunting has changed his tune. Is the immense pressure on Simpson-Miller justified?
Bertina McCaulay: The pressure that is on her has nothing to do with her being a woman. It has more to do with the changing of the guard. You’ve got to hand over power to the younger generation at some point, and welcome the younger ones who can lead. It’s about renewal. And this is not unique to the political arena; that’s what’s happening around the world.
TALLAWAH: So will Hilary Clinton make history?
Bertina McCaulay: My God, I hope she does! We need her to. And I don’t mean to sound harsh or anything, but if they allow [Donald Trump] to win, it can lead to a lot of serious damage for not just America, but the world.
TALLAWAH: What’s your advice for newly installed UK Prime Minister Theresa May?
Bertina McCaulay: Just lead. Don’t worry about people saying this is another woman in a man’s job. Just lead by example and be the best prime minister that you can be.
> REVIEW: Woman Tongue speaks some powerful truths