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+

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