Saturday, 27 August 2016

STAR TALK: What have you been reading this summer?

GINA HARGITAY, Miss Jamaica World 2013 
“Right now I’m reading The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin. I’m really interested in science right now, especially biology, and this book is one of the all-time groundbreaking works on the subject. I’ve always wanted to read it. And I’m also reading 1984 by Aldous Huxley.”

PAULA LLEWELLYN, Director of Public Prosecutions 
“I’m on leave, so I’m not reading anything too heavy right now. Just some light stuff. My work is already heavy, so being on a break from work, I want to take it easy.”

NEISHA YEN-JONES, Dancer-choreographer, educator 
Secrets. I don’t remember the name of the author, but it’s about the power of the mind. I try to read it at least once a year. It reminds you that what you think about and what you give your energy to can become your reality. Hence, the importance of controlling what you think about.”

SAUDICKA DIARAM, TV talk-show host, journalist 
“I re-read books like The Alchemist and 12 Pillars of Success over and over. They are two of my favourites. The Alchemist is about this man who wants to go on a journey to Egypt, but in the end he realizes that he’s been searching for what he already has. And Pillars is basically about life lessons, making small changes to your life and how to succeed in business.”

50-SECOND FILM REVIEW: ‘High Water’ tackles crime and family dynamics with compelling results

HOME ON THE RANGE: Foster (left) and Pine play Texas brothers who desperately turn to crime.

If Thelma and Louise had grandkids, they would probably bear striking resemblances to Toby and Tanner Howard, the pair of protagonist brothers stirring up trouble in Hell or High Water, an intriguing, action-packed drama-thriller written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by David McKenzie.

Toby (Star Trek’s Chris Pine) and Tanner (certified baddie Ben Foster) are rural Texas boys who were raised like twins. Now in their early 30s, they’re still tight but with leaner economic times facing everybody they’re out of work and stand to lose their ranch, in the wake of their mother’s death, if they don’t come up with the money to pay the outstanding mortgage and other expenses.

They hatch a plan to rob a string of small Texas banks, carrying out their daring daylight robberies clad in black ski masks and baggy clothes. They are on a roll when Marcus, a feisty retired ranger (Oscar winner Jeff Bridges) and his partner (Gil Birmingham) discover the patterns in their scheme and turn up the heat.

A deep and palpable strain of melancholy courses through this well-acted movie that has crisp cinematography and an excellent soundtrack among its assets. Though you don’t approve of their actions, your heart goes out to these brothers who you come to realize are good guys who’ve fallen on hard times and make a series of ill-advised choices. As the movie attests, a life of crime never pays.

As portrayed by Pine and Foster, who physically transformed to look like country boys, Toby (a divorced father of two who wants his sons to inherit the ranch) and Tanner (an ex-con with a hedonistic streak) make for believable siblings who don’t always see eye to eye but share the kind of bond that not even death can break asunder. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

Friday, 26 August 2016

THE EYES HAVE IT: Blind Spot delivers an uneven but entertaining mix

BEN'S PLACE: Cast member sharing the stage in a scene from the show.

Every man is king of his own castle – even the blind. Just ask Ben (Glen Campbell), the music mogul at the centre of all the action in Blind Spot, the reasonably entertaining new show from Jambiz Productions that works well as a comedy-drama but feels like territory playwright Patrick Brown has explored many times before.

All the usual ingredients are here: wit, punchlines, conflict and big laughs delivered by a cast of seasoned players familiar with each other’s acting styles. But the whole thing lacks that sense of oomph and originality.

Blessed with a music production empire that has secured him multiple awards and great private wealth, Ben is living large, even as he continues to follow his passion: make music and earn a handsome living. The devoted Jan (Sakina Deer in arguably her meekest role to date) is his loyal do-it-all secretary, for whom he’s been nursing tender feelings for years. Caryl (Camille Davis) is his raucous sister who eats like a wolf and looks ready for her close-up on a Jamaican version of Love & Hip Hop. Whitney (Sharee Elise) is his latest ‘discovery’, a wanna-be singer who lacks the essential instrument: an ear-pleasing voice.

They all live it up, day in day out, at Ben’s posh upper St. Andrew digs, complete with office, studio, living quarters and tonnes of plaques and memorabilia – evidence of an illustrious career. (The set design is wonderfully arranged.)

But their groovy world gets a violent jolt with the arrival of Scar (Courtney Wilson, very commanding), Jan’s fresh-from-prison ex, a roughneck who wants his pound of flesh and shares a strange connection with Caryl. They are all in for a wild ride when shocking revelations come tumbling out of the closet – a bag of secrets that threaten to destroy everything Ben has worked so hard to build.

Exploring fractious human relationships, power, greed and triumph in spite of disability, Blind Spot occasionally exudes a noirish sensibility but otherwise you can’t shake the overwhelming sense of familiarity.

The cast turns in solid work, especially Campbell as the visually impaired Don Juan who responds to his crisis with admirable verve. Davis is a sturdy presence but she’s becoming typecast as the angry Black woman. Deer and Elise, on the other hand, seem to have more variety in their Jambiz roles, particularly Elise, who went from loony Greta in last season’s Duppy Whisperer to a funky/punk rock-esque ‘songstress’ this time around.

Overall, Blind Spot, in spite of its shortcomings, is not exactly groping in the dark. Its lively comedic quotient and strong performances go a far way in providing audiences with some laughter and light. Tyrone’s Verdict: B-

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Neisha Yen-Jones finds the perfect playground in the world of musical theatre

HEAD FULL OF IDEAS: "One of the reasons I came back to Jamaica is to rise up young Black girls and boys to take over," says Yen-Jones, photographed with Danielle Stiebel (below) at the Actor Boy Awards.

Neisha Yen-Jones is good with kids. It’s after eleven on a warm Tuesday morning at the Shortwood Teachers’ College in St. Andrew, and Miss Yen-Jones is about to wrap up today’s musical theatre class with the tiny tots who are participating in the inaugural Avant Academy summer camp. The kids, who are learning moves and music to a couple of numbers from Annie, are a handful but for the most part they respond well to her a she shows them the ropes.

Dressed in traditional thespian black, her big bouncy curls dancing along to the choreography, Yen-Jones seems at home in the role of instructor – a bonafide artist imparting her knowledge to kids getting the swing of musical theatre for the first time. Perhaps the reason she’s so comfortable in the role is the fact that she was once in their place, getting her feet wet in the world of interpretative dance, ballet and Broadway showtunes, with mentors playing important roles in her artistic growth.

A daughter of James Hill in Clarendon, where she still has family to this day, Yen-Jones spent many of her formative years immersed in the London arts world, where her appreciation for song and dance and drama and doing things with passion began to take root. That’s why when I ask her where she gets her immense confidence from she doesn’t hesitate to give credit to teachers like Donald McLennon of London’s Millennium Dance 2000 and Jacqui Mitchell, who helped her keep her head up when she faced pressure and prejudice for being the only dark-skinned girl attending dance classes populated by a sea of white faces. (Very often she would get comments like, ‘You’re very good at ballet for a Black girl.’)

“[Jacqui] took me under her wing. She took the time to talk to me. She told me, ‘Don’t worry about being different. Just be you,’” Neisha recalls, as she sits with TALLAWAH in the big empty auditorium. “Three years of that turned my life around and really changed how I look at life.”

Neisha needed that confidence boost because, more than a decade later, she’s been able to draw on those lessons and those quiet instructive moments in building a solid musical theatre career. Not only has she starred in The Lion King on the West End, playing Nala in 2013, she has done Stomp in London and Cyprus, Denmark and Sweden, and landed key roles in Broadway and UK shows like Dirty Dancing and The Harder They Come: The Musical, which were among the final shows she performed in before returning to Jamaica to cool her happy feet.

“Musical theatre is my passion. It’s what I do, and I think it’s a tool we can use to break down language barriers and improve kids’ way of communicating,” says the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) graduate, whose resume also lists numerous teaching and workshop stints, including her part-time affiliation with the School of Dance, Edna Manley College.

Yen-Jones, who bemoans the lack of adequate support for the arts in Jamaica, is all about giving back to a country that gave her firm roots. “One of the reasons I came back to Jamaica is to rise up young Black girls and boys to take over,” she admits. “It takes a passionate approach, in both the administrative and performance aspects, to grow the performing arts. Students need tutelage, they need mentorship, and so it’s a mission of mine to collaborate on programmes that are about promoting high standards and quality.”
When the summer camp ends this weekend, Yen-Jones and Avant’s Seretse Small (who had to have her involved in the camp) will turn their attention to the academy’s musical theatre certification programme, which is a partnership with the London College of Music, beginning in September. “I’m really proud of the work she’s done in the camp so far. It fills me with confidence that we will be able to create a truly international musical theatre programme,” says Small, giving props to Yen-Jones. “I just need to find a way to get all the resources that she will need to bring out what’s inside her head.”
By her own admission, what’s inside her head these days is a sketchbook full of ideas, like creating a Jamaica-based performing-arts feeder school for the international market and securing scholarships for promising talents to study at some of the best schools overseas.

After nearly an hour of conversation, it becomes abundantly clear that Neisha Yen-Jones’ commitment to quality and those high standards continue to serve her well. “I do believe I am excellent at what I do. I am passionate about it; I believe in the power of the arts and mentorship. It’s our duty as the older folks in the industry to nurture the upcoming generation,” she says.

For the record, Neisha, who copped an Actor Boy Award in 2015 for choreographing At the Barricades for the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC), is in her mid-30s. But she can still use her twenty-something pass card. Her advice for the dreamers and those who look up to her is simple: Know that it’s possible for you. “As a little girl spending time in Spanish Town that used to drive me; knowing that it was possible,” she says. “Get training, and when you get the training get good. And when you get good, get better. And when you get better, be the best.”

Thursday, 25 August 2016

NEWS FEED: Why teachers migrate + Tuning the Summer Olympics + Roger Clarke inspires scholarship

LONG LIVE MR. CLARKE: What better way to honour the memory and legacy of a departed stalwart who made groundbreaking contributions to his chosen field? We make note of the launch of the Roger Clarke Scholarship, which will be tenured at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in Portland, as of next month. Valued at $250,000, it was launched by the CB Group at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Tuesday, much to the pleasure of Clarke’s widow, Sonia. “My hope is that the recipient will love agriculture as [Roger] did and will do your organization proud,” she told reporters. According to Dr. Keith Amiel, Corporate Affairs Manager at the CB Group, the scholarship (which will cover tuition and other expenses for one CASE student each year, is a fitting tribute. “For all his dedication and passion for agriculture, the CB Group is pleased to present CASE with [this scholarship],” Amiel says, “as they continue to mould future generations of Jamaicans, excited, energized and wired about agriculture.”

IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT? In the wake of recent speculation that the migration of teachers could be increasingly affecting the island’s CXC pass rates, at least one education official has publicly weighed in on the matter. “Losing our teachers means the system is being haemorrhaged and the long-term implications will shake the core of the education system,” observes Howard Isaacs, the newly installed President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), who was speaking at the 55th Annual JTA Conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa in St. James on Monday. When it comes ‘the money question,’ Isaacs says, it’s a tough call. “We recognize that it is not possible for the Government to match the salaries offered in [some] overseas markets,” says Isaacs (left), pictured above with former president Doran Dixon. “However, a concerted effort must be made to review the salaries and conditions of work for teachers. As a country, are we doing the best for our teachers?”

ON YOUR MARKS, SET, PLAY: Wouldn’t it be supercool to tune in to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, and see musicians from all over the world competing for the gold medal? Attorney Don Foote feels so too. “Music is a sort of sport and music is entertaining, as well as therapeutic and enjoyable. These are all characteristics of sports generally. We don’t have music as a category, and I feel there can be some buzz around the possibility of having music as a part of the Olympics,” he said in a recent interview. “I am not asking that reggae music be a category, I am speaking of music generally. All participating countries could have their style of music in the entries. I think the details can be worked out as to how this could be accomplished.”

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

STRENGTH, COURAGE & WISDOM: Women Who Roar yields a powerful mix of humour and history

ANCESTORS' CALL: The LTM cast captures a wide range of voices in the music-and-drama production.

Madame Rose Leon, Florence Nightingale, Lady Bustamante, Nanny of the Maroons. Their Jamaican connection aside, the central thread that joins these formidable icons together is that they were women who used their guts and determination to make significant contributions to nation-building that still matter to this day.

Their stories come in for rousing, amusing and thought-provoking celebration in Women Who Roar, a solid production recently put on by the LTM Pantomime company at the Little Little Theatre in Kingston.

Produced by Barbara Gloudon, with notes from a selection of Jamaican history books and musical arrangements by Grub Cooper and Noel Dexter, Women Who Roar (coming on the heels of Tanya Batson-Savage’s sublime hit Woman Tongue) is peppered with anecdotes, reflections, poems, and monologues that highlight the clout and capacity of Jamaican women to tun dem han’ mek fashion, stand by their man in times of crisis, build up strong families and shine on the world stage.

The aforementioned legends aside, we meet women as dynamic and diverse as the mother of Jamaican art Edna Manley (Latoya Newman-Morris), who gave us powerful works like "Negro Aroused"; the Jamaican matriarch in Toronto (played by Anya Gloudon) who drops some ‘island spice’ on the white woman with her smelly dog at the bus stop. Here’s a dark-skinned keeper of the keys at a mental asylum in Britain who has to stamp her authority to get some respect. There’s Louise Bennett-Coverley, the original lioness, reminding the world that our dialect is as compelling as it is colourful.
And just because the women couldn’t do it alone, homage is paid to a wide array of men (Company members Derrick Clarke, Adrian Harris, Shama Reid and Kevin Halstead are standouts in the cast), who gave them everything from sugar to bitter gall. But it’s the ladies, of course, who command the spotlight, and kudos are due to the likes of Jacqueline Higgins, who shines in several roles (most notably as the one-and-only Miss Annie), alongside Nicole Taylor Thompson, Barbara Johnson and Cecelia McCarthy Reid, among others. 

The musical numbers (“One Thing Lead to Another” and a spicy finale among them) add oomph to a production that doesn’t boast the most attention-grabbing set design or ‘electric’ lighting but, as with any LTM show, delivers sensible and stylish costumes – and true Jamaicanness straddling the comic, dramatic and folkloric. 

Overall, Women Who Roar is a laudable show that brings the noise, while echoing the historical footnotes of the female stalwarts whose moral and life-affirming examples still point the way forward. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

UP RISING: Actor Ackeem Poyser shines in roles that show off his crowd-pleasing style

FRESH FACE: Poyser, 24, has set his sights on a stage, film and TV career.

Watching Ackeem Poyser in action you don’t just see a School of Drama graduate displaying the skills and techniques he’s picked up over the years or Probemaster Entertainment’s crowd-pleasing new star giving the audience their money’s worth. We see a talented 24-year-old actor who is fast-tracking in his career, with the requisite energy and emotional intelligence (and some eye-candy appeal for the ladies thrown into the mix).

With his slender, runway-ready physique, edgy haircut and taut five-foot-eight-inch frame, Poyser’s got the total package and makes a cool new addition to the class of budding leading men that already includes Akeem Mignott, Danar Royal and Brian Johnson. Prior to signing with Probemaster a couple of years ago, Poyser was getting his feet wet in the dramatic and comedic arts, landing roles in everything from stage (Courthouse Drama, University of Delcita with Andrea Wright), television (Paul Beale’s Join Tenants on CVM) to film (he wrote and directed Yardicus, a spoof of Spartacus, available for viewing on YouTube).

While at the School of Drama (he graduated in 2015), he appeared in shows like the Thespy-winning Ruined (“I played a rebel leader,” he reminds us) and 2014’s An Echo in the Bone, in which Leonie Forbes (below) saw him and recommended him to David Tulloch, the Probemaster general, who cast him in a Prayer Partner remount and JMTC’s At the Barricades.

Now comes his big breakout role as the virile Kristian, a ‘sextrepreneur’ who bites off more than he can chew in 3some (pictured below), the hottest ticket in town this season, a play full of steamy, skin-baring action. How did Ackeem prepare for the “demanding” role? “Whole heap of push-ups,” he jokes. “There’s a comical and a dramatic element to the character, so I had to go back to my drama school roots and find the most realistic approach. Dissect the character, look at the obligations, what he wants, what motivates him, the obstacles.”

For the most part, Poyser nails it, educing the character’s blend of inner strength and habitual recklessness to memorable effect. Having a pair of fired-up female costars to keep pace with helped tremendously. “It tookus some time to be comfortable around each other and get to know each other, but it came together,” he says of swapping lines (and much more) with Carline Brown and Sabrina Thomas. “I think we built a strong chemistry and it’s still a work-in-progress.”

For the record, Tulloch is proud of his rising star. “He’s one of my new young guns, shiny and glistening,” he tells TALLAWAH, laughing. “I think he has a whole lot of potential and he’ll go far if he remains focused and in control.”

Whether he’s reflecting on his former nine-to-five hustle as Entertainment Coordinator at Beaches Negril (“I felt like I was straying from what I really wanted to do”), meeting Konshens, his brother from another (“I met him once; we took some pictures”) or overcoming major financial hurdles, Ackeem is refreshingly candid with an easy-going, club-kid vibe.

In the years to come, he wants to do more buzz-generating theatre roles for sure and, finally, land some film gigs. “My dream growing up actually was to be a film actor, which is the dream for millions of youths coming up, and there’s a part of me that still wants to fulfil that dream,” shares Poyser, whose TV guilty pleasures include Power and Grimm. “I love series and movies, and I don’t just watch movies for watching movies’ sake. I like to spend time to analyze and learn new things.” 

> Keep up with Ackeem on Instagram @iamvybzkeem

> REVIEW: Read TALLAWAH's response to David Tulloch's 3some

MAN OF THE MOMENT: A milestone birthday, 3 new gold medals and worldwide acclaim, Bolt’s living the sweet life

THIS IS 30: The poster boy of track-and-field enters his third decade in style.

What do you give to the man who’s got it all? On Sunday, Usain Bolt celebrated his 30th birthday over in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with the most enviable of birthday presents: three shiny new Olympic gold medals to add to his impressive collection. 

As we all know, he won them after copping the sprint double (100M and 200M) and anchoring the Men’s 4X100 relay team to a show-stopping win that brought the crowd to its feet inside the Olympic Stadium. You can still hear the deafening cheers across the ocean.

The overall consensus: what a talent! The world has never seen the likes of Usain Bolt and as far as those world records go (9.58 seconds in the 100M and 19.19 seconds in the 200M) they will in all likelihood remain unchanged for years to come.

Having cemented his place in global sporting history, the most fascinating thing about Bolt is that he’s gloriously unchanged – still a down-to-earth, fun-loving sportsman who prefers to let his performances do the talking. He gets a serious high off those big, supersized crowds.

The legend-cementing ‘triple treble’ speaks volumes of how history will remember this modern-day phenom, on whose account the sleepy Trelawny village of Sherwood Content is bound to become a future tourist destination.

To wit, the Trelawny massive (including Mayor Garth Wilkinson) can’t wait to have that new statue unveiled in his honour in time for Heroes’ Day in October, at the Falmouth Water Square. A grateful people’s fitting tribute to a native son.

Everybody has their own take on how the all-important history books, generations from now, will report on the athletic prowess and game-changing verve of Usain Bolt. (Ranked in the pantheon reserved for Ali and Jordan? Certainly.) But what say he? “I want to be remembered as one of the greatest. I have worked all my career, all my life, so hopefully they can read about me as one of the greatest ever in this sport,” he revealed to an interviewer while in Rio.

There have been the highs and lows, the triumphs and letdowns, but Bolt has wisely opted to take it all in stride and hold fast to this mindset as he gears up for a final lap before walking off into the retirement sunset. “I’m never disappointed in anything I do. I still have the world records, even though it’s been a long time. I am happy. I am an Olympic champion again, and that’s the main thing.”

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

NEWS FEED: The CXC Maths problem + Elaine’s world-record potential + Is Al Miller a ‘fall guy’?

MILLER’S CROSS TO BEAR: As prominent Kingston pastor Rev. Al Miller awaits sentencing for his involvement in the infamous Tivoli/Dudus affair that still haunts us as a nation, Miller’s very public ordeal is a major talking point in several quarters of society, not least among them the religious community, where there have been calls for a reversal of the guilty verdict to calls for him to step down as leader of Fellowship Tabernacle. Dr. Garnett Roper, however, senses more powerful forces at play. Could he be on to something? “Al Miller has taken the fall for a Jamaican political class and system of justice that knows only to prosecute one section of its population,” he wrote in stern newspaper column recently. “It is one thing to be a fall guy and somebody’s stool pigeon; it is a worse thing not to know that that is all you are.” Very strong words indeed.

WHAT THE NUMBERS MEAN: Can the blame for Jamaica’s 14.3 percent decline in CXC Mathematics passes this year be placed squarely on the mass exodus of qualified teachers in recent times? “It is estimated that 111 fully qualified teachers left the system in 2015. It is believed that many took up teaching opportunities overseas. Undoubtedly, this would have affected the preparation of a significant number of students,” Education minister Ruel Reid has said in response. “This loss would have had a significant impact on the ability of schools to maintain the standards of teaching and learning which would have been established particularly over the past four years.” Thankfully, there’s some good news: the education ministry is set to develop the Mathematics, Science and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) teacher initiative to increase the number of fully qualified maths teachers.

HOW FAST CAN SHE GO? After copping the sprint double in Rio, what’s next for Jamaica’s sprinting sensation Elaine Thompson? Re-teaming with coach Stephen Francis to produce even more astonishing performances. “This year, I still think she can run probably 10.6. I’m not sure how many more times we are going to ask her to do the double. Maybe we will choose one over the other at the World Championships, but for next year and later this year, we have to focus on getting her to run as fast as we think she can run based on what we saw at the Trials and here [in Rio],” declares Francis, who thinks his student has world-record potential. “I think she has another 10th of a second in her, with decent breeze and temperature. Right now, she is better than she was at the Trials and hopefully by the end of the season, she will get a chance to show it.”

Saturday, 20 August 2016

COUNTRY STRONG: New St. Andrew Custos, Dr. Patricia Dunwell, champions national unity, spirit of volunteerism

WOMAN IN CHARGE: Dr. Dunwell accepts her instrument of appointment from Sir Patrick Allen during Thursday's ceremony.

After 49 years of marriage and serving organizations as diverse as the Stella Maris Foundation, the Board of Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities and the Stony Hill community training centre for girls, Dr. Patricia Ann Marshall Dunwell (a mother of two and grandmother of two) has learned what it takes to build strong families and even stronger communities. For her, it’s about holding fast to the simple courtesies.

“We build stronger families by caring for one another, learning how to forgive and learning to be real peacemakers. As soon as a quarrel develops you find a solution instead of allowing the situation to escalate. Going back to the old days of raising children right, we used to have ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ all around. It was never just my child or your child. As the saying goes, it takes a village,” she tells TALLAWAH, moments after being sworn in as the new Custos Rotolorum of St. Andrew, an important office to which she brings a wealth of experience, passion for making a difference and can-do spirit.

The swearing-in ceremony, attended by a who’s who of Jamaican government officials, colleagues and well-wishers, was held on the grounds of the Hope Botanical Gardens on Thursday afternoon. “I feel both honoured and humbled for the trust that has been placed in me, by appointing me to the office of Custos, and I am committed to working diligently and efficiently to execute the duties of this high office,” she said in her response to the appointment.

As Custos, Mrs. Dunwell is the chief magistrate and the Governor General’s representative in the parish, presiding over a lay magistrate body comprised of approximately 1,500 Justices of the Peace. “I urge and request the JPs and the business community to assist you with support, as you discharge your responsibilities, thus making this a successful tenure for you and the parish,” noted Governor General Sir Patrick Allen addressing Thursday’s ceremony. “I am placing in your hands all the Justices of the Peace of St. Andrew. Take care of them and they will take care of you,” he added.

A successful dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon (since 1990), who has given almost 20 years of service to the Kingston Public Hospital, Dr. Dunwell says her vision for the future development of the parish is nothing complex. “As your new Custos, [the role] comes with many areas of responsibility, but I am committed to the promotion of heightened mediation and conflict resolution across this diverse parish, helping our communities be the best they can be.”

The spirit of volunteerism, she says, is alive and well in the parish and Jamaica at large, and she remains hopeful that it will continue to play a vital role in the creation of ‘a better Jamaica’ – nation-building and family life fortified through the sharing of time, talent and treasure.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

‘RIO’ MOMENTS: Team Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, Usain Bolt and Shericka Jackson savour their Olympic glory

SPEED SISTERS: Jamaica’s newest sprint queen Elaine Thompson (centre) likes the taste of her shiny Olympic gold medal, which she gives a playful bite while attending the medal ceremony for the Women’s 100M Final inside the Olympic Stadium at the ongoing Rio Olympics in Brazil on August 15. Also showing off their hard-won prizes: silver medallist Torie Bowie, left, of the United States and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who secured the bronze for Jamaica. (Photo: Getty Images/ 

RUNNING MEN: Usain Bolt (centre) kick-started his Rio campaign for a historic third consecutive sprint treble, when he outshone the rest of the field to win the 100M gold. Unsurprisingly, he was all smiles on the medal podium, posing for photographers, next to worthy contenders Justin Gatlin (silver, USA) and Canada’s bronze-medal winner Andre DeGrasse, inside the Olympic Stadium. (Photo: Getty Images/

PEAK PERFORMERS: Day 10 of the Rio Summer Olympics is one Shericka Jackson (right) will never forget. The resilient Jamaican athlete poured her heart and soul into that performance in the Women’s 400M final inside the Olympics Stadium on Tuesday. For her sterling effort, in spite of the odds, Jackson copped the bronze medal for Jamaica, just behind America’s Allyson Felix (left), who won the silver and Bahamian wonder woman Shaunae Miller, who bagged the gold. Here the three outstanding athletes share a photo-op on the medal podium. (Photo: Getty Images/

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: Tulloch’s 3some is a spicy, between-the-sheets romp

YOU DON'T KNOW MY NAME: Brown, Poyser and Thomas enjoy each other's company in this provocative new play.

David Tulloch’s 3some is a raunchy but highly entertaining dramedy that rekindles the playwright’s affair with the kind of theatre that seduces, satisfies and leaves you wanting more. It’s not David’s classiest hour, but it’s yet another example of him pushing the creative envelope as a writer and director, while introducing a bunch of relative newcomers who are not shy about putting it all out there.

Meet Kristian (Ackeem Poyser), a 30-something ladies’ man and entrepreneur who creates an app for singles looking for casual, anonymous sex. No strings attached. Things are going swimmingly well for until two sultry young ladies – bossy, career-driven Annabella (Sabrina Thomas) and bossy, power-driven Raina (Carline Brown) – sashay into his life, each with their own agendas. But, as it turns out, they’re all “acquainted.” So when the idea of a ménage à trois enters the picture, they go for it – a bit reluctantly at first, but ultimately these playmates can’t keep their hands off each other. 

As they say, be careful what you wish for. Within months Kristian’s world is topsy-turvy, and that’s when hidden agendas and frightful sexual tastes and appetites are pushed out into the open.

Exploring themes of temptation, sexuality, promiscuity and relationship dynamics in the age of rapid technological advancement, 3some not only brings the heat and some serious adult content (under 18s definitely not allowed); it raises big, bold-type questions about the dark side of human nature and what happens when things go from “casual” to “complicated” in matters of the heart.

Poyser, who bears a slight resemblance to dancehall hotshot Konshens, is a man full of energy and a pair of dramatic eyes that he puts to effective use. We love Thomas’ blend of sass, seductiveness and grit, while Brown plays Raina to a tee, crafting a character that keeps it real, ready to wage war for whatever and whomever she wants.

The theatre house’s small stage sometimes makes the action and set design feel a bit claustrophobic (ample space is key for a show to breathe), but what compensates, thankfully, is the effortless chemistry that floats among the three actors who disappear into their roles, bringing these desperate, driven and (sometimes) devious characters to life.

As a playwright/director/producer, you never know where David Tulloch’s creative juices will spur him next, but on this stop he serves up a spicy dish with something complex, something kinky, realistic and revelatory. And there’s always an app for that. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

Saturday, 13 August 2016

THE BEST OF HIS LOVE: David Tulloch shares the inspiration behind his most popular plays

TWO OF A KIND: Tulloch, with Prayer Partner star Chris McFarlane; (below) actors making a scene in Sins of the Flesh at Green Gables Theatre.

After 52 plays and counting (over 30 of them staged), have we seen the best of David Tulloch? Not by a longshot. This month, the 35-year-old agent provocateur brings to his audiences his latest potboiler, 3Some, that’s just as ‘hot-and-bothered’ as the title suggests. With such a diverse body of work to his credit, we couldn’t resist taking a trip down memory lane with the prolific storyteller, reflecting on some of his finest offerings to date:

WINE& ROSES: “In 2005, Totlyn Oliver came to me with a radio serial called The Days of Wine and Roses and asked me to convert it to a play. I can appreciate the cougar situation so I did. We’ve had about four remounts so far but I haven’t made any major changes to it. I believe that once you have a work that can stand the test of time you should run with it.”

PRAYER PARTNER: “This was originally staged in 2004. When I remounted it last year, I only added one new character. I can appreciate the nerd who wants to get the girl and will go to whatever lengths it takes. Everybody likes an underdog. A Part 2 might be in the works.”

RISQUE: “After I directed David Heron’s 4Play, it got four [Actor Boy] nominations, so I decided to write my own 4Play. I added the bit about the scammings and decided to push the envelope and go totally nude with the actors. It practically created a new genre in Jamaican theatre, and it was a new demographic that came out to see it.”

PATERNAL INSTINCT: “It’s from a personal theme of mine. At the time I wanted to be a father, so I decided to live vicariously through my pen. There’s a Part 2 for it as well, but this Part 1 is still getting a lot of requests.”

JAMAICA SWEET: “When I did Bay Vibes and MoBay Vibes with Dougie Prout, he told me that as a playwright, you should have at least one revue for yourself. Look out for Jamaica Sweeter coming soon. Not sure when though.”
SINS OF THE FLESH: “I didn’t know what I was thinking (Laughs). I think at the outset I intended for it to be like Risqué, but then I decided to create a nice drama out of it.”

FOR MY DAUGHTER: “I heard my father preaching about a similar situation one Sunday, so I took that as the premise. It’s based on the true story that I heard, but I fictionalized it a bit. Then Leonie Forbes took me up on my offer to come back on stage, so it was a done deal.” 

> 3Some plays at the Phoenix Theatre, New Kingston, Fridays to Sundays at 8pm. Tickets: 442-1669.

Friday, 12 August 2016

BEAUTY OF THE WEEK: St. Mary’s Monique Robb relishes new challenges, being true to herself

GLOW GIRL: I’m always looking for new ways to grow as an individual,” shares the 24-year-old go-getter.

There are no substitutes for diligence, compassion and anything that nurtures the creative spirit. That’s the kind of thinking that guides Monique Robb – and one she’s intent on passing on to her students at Trelawny’s Westwood High, where she currently teaches Language Arts. Robb’s love of vintage fashion, DIY stuff and blogging reflects her eclectic tastes, while her recent participation (repping St. Mary) in the Miss Jamaica Festival Queen competition (copping third place!) attests to her appetite for taking on bucket-list items that challenge her in new and exciting ways. 

PERSONALS – Age: 24; Hometown: Galina, St. Mary; Occupation: Teacher; Height: 5’6” 

Who do you admire and why? “I admire people like Professor Carolyn Cooper because she’s a strong Jamaican woman and very serious about her culture. I have learned a lot from her over the years – qualities like how to have a strong sense of self.” 

Describe your personal style: “I love vintage clothing but in recent times I’ve started to incorporate some modern and more mature looks in my wardrobe. I enjoy fashion but I prefer to take the minimalist approach.” 

Why do you wear makeup? “In my teenage years I suffered from a bad case of acne, and I suffered from hyperpigmentation as well. So wearing makeup I feel more confident and I feel that my scars are not on display. (Laughs). It’s also a means of expression. Today I’m feeling upbeat and funky so I chose to wear a bold red lip. Another day I might choose a different shade. It’s about what you’re in the mood for.” 
Why did you enter Miss Jamaica Festival Queen? “I entered to really challenge myself. I’m always looking for new ways to grow as an individual. And I entered because I want to give back to my parish and to Jamaica. It requires commitment and hard work and that’s what I’m about.” 

How do you spend your free time? “I love going to the beach. Being from St. Mary, I live near the sea, so I’m at the beach quite often. I listen to music and I have a personal blog, but I prefer to keep it private. And I’m a big DIY-er. I love to sew, painting and bookbinding. I just enjoy being creative.” 

What’s in store for the future? “Professionally, I’d love to segue into a media career. I see myself writing a weekly column for one of our local newspapers and maybe branching off into television.” 

What’s the philosophy that guides your life? “It’s an Ubuntu saying by Nelson Mandela: “How can I be happy when my brother is hungry?” 

> INTERVIEW: Meet 2016 Festival Queen winner, Kyesha Randall!

CHAT ’BOUT: Stephen Francis on the Fraser-Pryce/Thompson ‘rivalry’, Ronald Jackson on disaster mitigation, and more

“[The rivalry] doesn’t affect me. Our camp is one where we train people to beat the ones that are already established because I believe that is one way to keep the ones that are already established on their toes. If they can’t manage that kind of pressure, they will drop by the wayside. But that is the way I believe things are to be done. We always have youngsters who come up to challenge those who are already established, and I hope that will always be the case. You try your best not to pick favourites and ensure that everyone understands it’s a performance thing.” – MVP head coach, Stephen Francis, assessing the rivalry between his firebird sprinters Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson, who are both competing at the Rio Olympics this summer

“I do believe that a lot of work has gone into the operational apparatus in various countries. There are gaps in terms of the resources and the coordination of a joint government approach, which needs to be strengthened. The fact that we have a lot of coastal communities across the Caribbean is going to put a lot of pressure on the ability of the existing resources to be able to deal with the demands that can be generated beyond the scale and scope of a category one hurricane or tropical storm.” – Ronald Jackson, Executive Director of the Caribbean Development Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), on strengthening emergency services across the region through increased investments

“I am extremely pleased with and surprised by the amount of work that our Brazilian friends have put into the Games. They have now become the benchmark for what other developing countries can do. Expectations are always high when it comes to our athletes, but we should put all this in perspective and understand that once they perform to the best of their abilities that is victory in itself.” – Maurice Wilson, technical leader of Jamaica’s squad at the Rio Olympics, anticipating a strong medal haul

“Education has been, for me, a partnership exercise. No matter how much money we spend from the national budget, we will need to spend more. It is the most valuable and rewarding investment that any country or company can do. Our children deserve the best education possible and, as such, we must not compromise.” – PM Andrew Holness addressing Tuesday’s launch of the National Bakery Foundation’s Little Leaders Programme at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston

REAL TALK: Junior Sunshine Girls show fighting spirit as they get into gold-medal shape

PLAY MAKERS: Both Jamaica and England are preparing for next year's keenly anticipated World Youth Cup in Botswana, Africa.

Those junior Sunshine Girls have real fight in them. On Tuesday night, the players demonstrated this vividly as they rallied to defeat the visiting English U-19s (here for a five-test series), 43-35, at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston.

It was a match-up as entertaining as it was intensely contested, as both teams engaged in a fierce battle to the final whistle. In the end, the Jamaican girls pulled off the win to the satisfaction of the small but loudly cheering home crowd. England had won the opening game, on Monday, 47-43.

As the road to the 2017 World Youth Cup in Botswana heats up, the performance is clear indication that our girls are putting in the work to come away from the tournament with favourable results.

But Jamaica’s track record at the Under-21 level internationally has been largely mixed over the years, and we are currently fourth in the rankings. Can we reclaim a spot in the top three? It remains to be seen but what’s certain is that this 2016 crop of girls is a work-in-progress deserving of our unwavering support.

Trailing 8-7 at the end of the first quarter, the team pulled a few tricks out of the hat to increase scoring opportunities for talented shooters Assana Williams and Simone Gordon, and brought the score to 17-17 at half-time. More accurate shooting and consistent hard work in midcourt paid off for the Jamaicans who enjoyed leads of 26-20, 28-21, 30-23 – and 32-24 at the end of the third stanza. 

England fought back valiantly, trying to take the lead (reducing the deficit to 39-34 at one point), but the Jamaican defenders rose to the challenge, forcing multiple turnovers from the visitors. And despite a few intermittent hiccups, the team held on to secure the well-deserved 43-35 win.

Conrad Parkes, who has had remarkable success with the UWI Mona Pelicans squad, is the man tasked with getting the team ready for the Botswana tournament. According to Parkes, they still have a lot of ground to cover. “We will have to work on our spatial movements and off-the-ball movements and maintaining possession of the ball. In the game on Monday we never held possession as well as we did today,” he told TALLAWAH in a post-match interview. “We made the adjustments and the tables turned in our favour.” 

But you win some and you lose some. On Thursday, the English girls made it clear that they’re not surrendering so easily, eking out a 42-39 win to take the third test and the series lead 2-1. But this is precisely the kind of spirited challenge that Jamaica’s young Sunshine Girls need to keep them on their toes, as they work on the weak areas and get in firm gold-medal shape for Botswana.

> The five-test netball series continues this Friday and Saturday at the National Indoor Sports Centre.

BOOK OF THE MOMENT: Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes the Sun hailed as an artful, award-worthy debut

JUST ADD WATER: Here comes a juicy pageturner from a buzzworthy new Jamaican author, pictured below.

A year after Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings rocked the literary world, wowing critics and gracing multiple bestseller and Top 10 lists, another Jamaica-set novel is making major noise abroad. Released just in time for the summer, Here Comes the Sun (LiveRight) by newcomer Nicole Dennis-Benn – a Jamaican-born writer now living in Brooklyn – is already one of the BBC’s “10 New Beach Reads to Devour” and a New York Times “Cool Reads for Hot Days” pick.

According to reviews, the novel delivers an equally heartfelt and provocative story that honestly earns the lavish critical praise. In other words, it more than lives up to the hype.

Largely set in the fictitious village of River Bank, it’s the story of Margot, who works at a swanky, tourist-friendly resort in the bustling, tourist-friendly mecca of Montego Bay, sending her younger sister Thandi to school. Sadly, theirs is also a reality in which sexuality is often traded in the name of survival. But butter mus’ come. So when plans for the construction of a new hotel is the talk of the village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but the chance to finally admit a shocking secret.

At the height of Dennis-Benn’s “vibrant, passionate” narrative arc emerge long-hidden scars and a voice that compellingly captures “the rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect.” One reviewer goes so far as to declare that the first-time novelist has penned “a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas.”

The New York Times hails Here Comes the Sun as a “lithe and artfully plotted debut,” while the Miami Herald says it offers “an excellent reason to look beyond the surface beauty of paradise” and is written with “eloquent prose and unsentimental clarity….. as bracing as a cold shower on a hot summer day.”

Meanwhile, Backpage says Dennis-Benn’s writing duly earns comparisons to Haitian heroine Edwidge Danticat (Untwine; Breath, Eyes, Memory), while Marie Claire predicts that Here Comes the Sun will “likely be a buzzword in all the upcoming literary competitions.”