Wednesday, 28 September 2016

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Actor Hugh Douse riffs on character study, playing bad guys, and giving back

HOLDING COURT: "It is always a task to make the villain believable," says Douse (left), with costars, and bonding with daughter Catherine (below).

As an actor, Hugh Douse has a developed a knack for inhabiting the roles of archvillains and men coming to terms with their own slipperiness. In Father HoLung and Friends’ revival of Moses, he gets to sink his teeth into yet another such compelling part – the pompous Pharaoh, whom we all know from Old Testament lore as the enemy of God keeping the Israelites captive. But at his core, Douse explains, this Pharaoh is actually a man torn between opposing courses of action.

“The Pharaoh I play is one who is conflicted. He is someone who was born into a family that is accustomed to having power and not being challenged,” he explains. “But in Egypt, the numbers [of Israelites] are growing, and there’s this fear that they [the Egyptians] will one day be overthrown by them. So he’s conflicted in terms of being a humanitarian and having an empire to run.” Conflicted or not, it is not lost on Douse that this powerful ruler is no saint, which makes the character that much more intriguing and fun to play, given the multiple layers.

Is it more challenging, we asked Douse, to slip into the shoes of a villain or the stand-up guy? “Both are hard, but it is harder to play a bad guy because a bad guy can be one-dimensional,” admits the actor, last seen wreaking havoc as King Saul, the arch-enemy of our hero in 2015’s King David. “Everybody has a story, and it is always a task to make the villain believable, to show how someone turned to evil. And having the motivation for the evil makes the character, I find, more convincing to the audience.”

Conviction and depth are certainly among the qualities he brings to the portrayal, inside the National Arena. “I love Hugh’s work in the show. I think he interprets well,” observes co-star Wynton Williams, who plays Moses. “He does his homework, and I think what he comes up with is authentic and real and true. And as Pharaoh, he brings that sense of compassion alongside that sense of evil.”

With a decade-long stage career spanning drama (The Crucible), comedy (Smile Orange) and epics (the original Moses), Douse has appeared in a wonderful mix of shows, with such highlights as Louis Marriott’s Bedward, Trevor Rhone’s Old Story Time and the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company’s Purlie. Teaming up with local filmmakers, he’s done small parts in projects like Storm Saulter’s Better Mus’ Come and Chris Browne’s Ghett’a Life, and a handful of TV commercials.

Still, in addition to serving as Artistic Director of his beloved Nexus performing arts ensemble, it’s the thrill of doing a Father HoLung show (all charitable works) that appeals most to the artist in Hugh Douse, now in his 40s. “This is my way of giving back,” he says without missing a beat. “This is a chance to give back to God and to the poor, by serving his downtrodden through the very powerful ministry of Father and Missionaries of the Poor. It is in keeping with the idea of whatsoever you do to the least of my people, and it is an absolute joy to do.” 

> REVIEW: Moses is a well-made, visually stunning epic

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: 5 new and noteworthy titles we're buzzing about

A Way to Escape (LMH)
First-time novelist Michelle Thompson, a Jamaican-Canadian social worker, writes what she knows in this rollicking debut (due out in early 2017) about the ties that bind and starting over. When patriarch Arthur Tomlinson throws common-law wife Rose out of the house, she leaves everything behind and flees to her mother, with the four children. Hard times ensue, but there’s a silver lining: an invitation to Canada that ends up reviving Rose’s spirit and gives and her and the children a shot at happiness. At 270 pages, Thompson’s novel promises vibrant storytelling filled with characters who will remind you of someone you know.

The Whistler (Doubleday)
Few legal-thriller authors know their audience as well as master storyteller John Grisham, who plants a high-powered female protagonist at the centre of his 29th offering. Lacy Stolz, a Florida-based lawyer and investigator, whose job it is to respond to judicial misconduct, faces the toughest case of her career when a new corruption case lands on her desk. She immediately suspects that something is amiss and, sure enough, what plays out is an “electrifying” tale of crooked judges and a high-stakes rollercoaster ride through the darkest corners of the Sunshine State. In other words, this is Grisham at the height of his creative powers.

Shameful Shadows (LMH)
Secrets, redemption and dignity make a combustible mix in this sophomore release from Ditta Sylvester, whose delightful short stories populate her first book, 2011’s Puss Food and Other Jamaican Stories. She delves deeper into fictional narrative this time around, with this tale of Earl and his hard-to-please babymother, Daisy, and his rebellious younger sister, Vinell, who is harbouring a dark secret that threatens to destroy the lives of everyone around her. “Thought-provoking” and “well-written, Shadows is the work of an authentic and original Jamaican voice more readers need to discover.

Around the Way Girl: A Memoir (Atria Books)
How did Taraji P. Henson rise to become one of the most in-demand actresses in Tinseltown? In this candid memoir, on sale Oct. 11, the Oscar nominee (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Golden Globe winner (Empire still ranks among the most watched shows on TV), reflects on everything from her years at Howard University and the pitfalls of being a Black actress in the biz to the challenges, disappointments and triumphs that strengthened her backbone. Collaborating with New York Times bestselling author Denene Millner, Henson brings humour and her trademark keeping-it-realness to every page, as she reveals at heart a girl in the pursuit of her dreams.

Believing in Magic: My Story of Love, Overcoming Adversity and Keeping the Faith (Howard Books)
November 7, 2016 will mark 25 years since the announcement of Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson’s HIV diagnosis. In her widely praised new memoir, Magic’s dynamite wife, Cookie Johnson, opens up for the first time about staying committed to the NBA legend in spite of the heartache and how his revelation altered their lives. In 272 pages, she shares details on marriage, motherhood, her faith, personal struggles and triumphs as a wife, mother and God-fearing woman. The Johnsons' many friends, including power couple Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete, say they were touched by Cookie’s courage and candour. “It’s a stellar testimony,” say the Peetes, “of the power of love, faith, family and friendship.”

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

MAN OF THE MOMENT: 2016 Rising Stars champ Elton Earlington deserves the stamp of approval

BORN TO WIN: Elton giving one of his signature powerful performances that won him the title.

On Sunday night, a high-energy finale inside the Courtleigh Auditorium brought the curtains down on the 2016 season of Digicel Rising Stars, crowning a worthy champion in twenty-something powerhouse singer Elton Earlington, the father of a two-year-old daughter, who says he will be investing in early childhood education.

For his community project, Earlington plans to spearhead a $1.5-million initiative at his alma mater, the Temple Hall-based Evelyn Peterkin Basic School, which urgently needs bathroom facilities among other things. Thanks to funds from the Digicel Foundation, Earlington is looking forward to improving amenities at the 23-year-old institution, which his daughter will be attending next academic year. And it’s a fitting gesture from a young man who clearly wants to give back to his roots in a meaningful way.

That $1.5 million is a separate sum from the cool $1.5 mil he secured as the main prize for winning the competition, turning back a spirited challenge from up-and-coming pop-reggae princess Monifa Goss, an Ardenne High lightning-rod, whose mix of fierce singing talent and living-out-loud personality has her poised to land a place among the Ikayas and Denyques of the local music industry.

But this is Elton Earlington’s moment and, in his own words, his triumph marks the culmination of months and months of “hard work” (in-the-streets campaigning, tonnes of vocal training). The results speak for themselves, and he now joins that growing roster of exciting male vocal talent who’ve used the reality competition to launch viable singing careers.

For many, Earlington (with his lush vocals, sturdy built and darkly handsome features) comes off as a cross between Season One winner Cavan and the competition’s most popular product, Romain Virgo, who’s released a handful of albums, mixtapes and EPs since 2007. Can Elton follow suit?

It’s way too early to predict what kind of career he will have, but Elton has the makings of a formidable presence on the reggae scene, the potential to reach Virgo-type success and go beyond that. The tens of hundreds of fans and well-wishers who voted for him week after week obviously feel the same way, and with their continued support, coupled with the right original material (as Anthony Miller has repeatedly emphasized), he should have little difficulty getting his foot in the door.

YOU SEND ME: Well-made and visually stunning, Moses takes you on an epic journey

GIVE US FREE: A dazzling look, a crisp sound and a powerful story are the show's assets.

For those of you who are yet to see Father HoLung & Friends’ visually stunning and delightfully rhythmic revival of their hit musical Moses, you’ll be awed by the Golden Calf scene and the song-and-dance number that accompanies it. It’ an unforgettable mélange of revelry and rebellion that lands at the heart of what the show is about.

But it’s the parting of the Red Sea that elicits thunderous applause that echoes throughout the National Arena, as special effects, gorgeous lighting and utter resourcefulness combine to create a feast for the senses. Technical Director/Lighting Designer Robin Baston deserves all the major awards coming his way. The contributions of set designer PJ Stewart – towering structures that rotate to alternate as palatial columns and mountains of the great outdoors – reek of innovative cunning.

That said, Moses is a triumph, and we are very impressed with how it stakes its claim as an Old Testament-inspired musical drama heavily infused with Jamaican culture (the dancehall especially) and other contemporary elements that give it a modern sheen.

It’s the age-old story we all know: how the boy-wonder drawn from the water leaves behind his Egyptian heritage to liberate God’s people from Pharaoh’s tyrannical rule. But here it’s elevated into something fresh and vibrant, thanks to Father HoLung’s creative genius and the efforts of the hardworking supporting team – chief among them, director Greg Thames, who weaves it all together into a tight two-and-a-half-hour package.

Working with a large and committed group of talented actors of all ages, he makes you feel, in particular, the pain of the oppressed Israelites – enslaved men, women and children who cry out to God in song. That’s where Moses comes in, emerging as a now fully grown man torn between two identities (Egyptian and Israelite). But he eventually finds his purpose as God’s champion against the hard-hearted Pharaoh (Hugh Douse, compelling) and the Osiris-worshipping Ramses (Leighton Jones, utterly convincing).

Moses is robustly played by Wynton Williams (also the show’s Musical Director), who has the commanding stage presence, charismatic appeal, and powerful singing voice to get us to follow him on this long journey.

And what an eventful journey it is (the plagues, the burning bush, the drowning of Pharaoh’s army, the Ten Commandments), one that culminates with the Israelites basking in their newfound freedom as they head into the Promised Land.

Our only complaint about the show is that it deserves a much stronger finish. It’s not the bring-them-to-their-feet climax we were anticipating, given the heft of the lead-up events.

The final moments are a bit of a letdown, yes, but thankfully they take nothing away from the enormous pleasures that the overall journey provides – from the bombastic musical numbers (the dancehall-spiked “Shame On Me”, “the kaleidoscopic “I Am Who I Am”) to the vivid exploration of a born leader’s internal struggles and the forces he has to vanquish to do the work of the one who sent him. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Saturday, 24 September 2016

CALL MY NUMBER: The Magnificent Seven cuts loose with non-stop action, intriguing story

WAR & PEACE: Washington leads the troops in a fight for justice.

There’s a scene in the action-packed western thriller The Magnificent Seven, where Denzel Washington’s Sam Chisholm and Ethan Hawke’s Midnight are reuniting after what feels like many years. The big bear hug and megawatt smiles speak volumes of the bromance and respect between the long-time buddies. The real-life parallels are unmistakable: Training Day costars Washington and Hawke re-teaming on a project helmed by their director Antoine Fuqua, with whom Washington also collaborated on 2014’s The Equalizer.

In other words, here are three Hollywood vets joining forces once more, while refreshing their cinematic mojo to bring to life a western shoot-em-up about a small rural town named Rose Creek being terrorized by a ruthless bully (Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue), who is driving the residents from their homes (by brutal force if necessary) so he can mine the land for gold.

When a courageous widow played by Haley Bennett (her rebellious husband shot dead in the street) pleadingly asks Chisholm (a warrant officer and peace officer from Kansas) for help, he’s reluctant at first but eventually shows some heart and determination to right a terrible wrong.

Rounding up a motley crew of fighters, each with ‘unique’ capabilities, Chisholm heads to Rose Creek to turn the tables and restore to the people what’s rightfully theirs. But, of course, such a life-and death mission can’t be accomplished without sacrifice, strategy and hails upon hails of bullets, as the battle for Rose Creek crescendos to a fever pitch.
Working with screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk, Fuqua manages to transform this intriguing tale into a parable of selfless heroism, justice and the eternal battle between good and evil.

As ever, Washington’s charisma and actor’s actor brilliance form the lion’s share of the film’s appeal and forces the rest of the cast to raise their game. Hawke aside, the film’s solid supporting framework is anchored by the likes of Chris Pratt, Luke Grimes and Bennett.

In short, The Magnificent Seven may not make an arc-altering contribution to the world of westerns, but with its mix of captivating storytelling, James Horner’s apt music, Sharen Davis’ exquisite costumes, among other elements, it soars and marks a triumphant return to form for the Washington-Fuqua-Hawke dream team. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

ON THE SCENE: Highlights from Bolt’s NYC jaunt, Spirit of Independence Awards, PM Holness at the UN, and more

DELIGHTFUL DIPLOMACY: Sep. 23, United States. PM Andrew Holness (right) and Costa Rican President H.E. Luis Guillermo Solis find common ground and ample humour as they hold bilateral talks inside the UN headquarters in New York on Friday. Jamaica’s foreign affairs and foreign trade minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith, was also in attendance. (Photo: Jamaica House)

THE CHAMP IS HERE: Sep. 22, United States. Enthusiastic fans came out in their numbers on Thursday to have a one-on-one with Olympic sprinting legend Usain Bolt, who put in a surprise appearance at the PUMA Lab, powered by Foot Locker on 34th Street, in the Big Apple. Earlier in the week, the Jamaican speedster was a guest on NBC’s The Today Show, where he confirmed his participation at next summer’s IAAF World Championships in London and revealed such post-retirement plans as the establishment of a sports clinic in his native Jamaica. (Photo:

CIVIC PRIDE: Sep. 20, Kingston. For the second straight year, the JCDC hosted a national Spirit of Independence Awards ceremony, recognizing outstanding displays of pride and patriotism across the island. This year, the award for Best Parish Town Square went to the St. Catherine Parish Council, represented by secretary manager Michael Morris, who collected the award from Allison McLean (Permanent Secretary in the Culture ministry) and the JCDC’s Director of Community Cultural Development Services, Dr. Marjorie Leyden-Vernon. (Photo: JCDC)

DYNAMIC DUO: Sep. 17, Kingston. Tourism minister Edmund Bartlett and radio disc jock ZJ Sparks laugh it up as they show support for the clean-up work along the Palisadoes Coastal Strip last Saturday, chiefly organized by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), to coincide with the globally-spanning International Coastal Clean-up. Dozens of volunteers, including reps from corporate Jamaica, grabbed their rakes, gloves and plastic bags to get in on the action. (Photo: Stush)

THE FIRST LADIES: Sep. 17, Kingston. Fly girls Terri-Karelle Reid, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Kamila McDonald lent some star power to last weekend’s Colour Me Happy grand after party at the Hope Gardens, where a massive crowd gathered for the merriment, music and non-stop partying in a sea of painted bodies and wild abandon.(Photo: Sleek)

Friday, 23 September 2016

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: 5 productions that could go all the way this awards season

ALL IN THE FAMILY: The Leonie Forbes-led Not My Child had strong acting and solid writing.

Last time we shone the spotlight on the actors and actresses we feel are the strongest candidates (so far) for nominations when the Thespy and Actor Boy nods are announced early next year. This week we highlight five productions that could be in the running:

It is always noteworthy when a group of strong actresses join forces in a production. Such was the case with Woman Tongue. Thanks to layered writing from Tanya Batson-Savage (Eugene Williams directed), the show’s six fine ladies were able to deliver consistently appealing stage work.

With its very accomplished cast, this tour-de-force drama, which mixed historical context with fictional narrative, won over audiences with robust performances (Nadean Rawlins and Paul Issa especially) and a storyline that took some intriguing twists and turns.

On the local scene, few playwrights can spin a thrilling kitchen-sink drama like David Tulloch, who continued his impressive track record with this deeply-felt, edge-of-your-seat exploration of relationships dynamics, power and greed.

In this creatively staged show, the Pantomime Company paid tribute, with rousing songs and dramatization, to iconic Jamaican women who paved the way for the present and future generations. Overall, a wholesome production that appeals to a wide cross-section of theatre-goers.

Theatre’s women continued their dominance of the season with this winning blend of poetry, monologues and character study. Zoning in on touchy but pertinent subject matter, the Julene Robinson-led cast explored everything from identity and sexuality to peer pressure and what it means to have family.

> The top actors and actresses generating buzz

DELIVERING ‘MOSES’: Director Greg Thames on the power of team work, his artistic roots, and conquering creative challenges

PLAY ON: "I think Father has grown to trust the group; he knows us very well," says Thames, pictured with PJ Stewart, who has also worked on successive HoLung productions. (Below): Thames, HoLung and Bully.

It’s minutes after two in the morning inside the National Arena, and Greg Thames wants nothing more than a warm drink and a comfy chair to rest his aching feet. The ace director, who is masterminding this month’s remount of Father HoLung & Friends’ Old Testament-inspired mega-musical Moses, has been on for the past seven hours at least, leading the final dress rehearsal and getting things right for the highly anticipated production that begins previews this weekend, ahead of its big dates set for Oct. 1 and 2.

The mammoth cast and creative team (including choreographer Paula Shaw, lighting maestro Robin Baston and creative consultant Alwyn Bully) couldn’t want a more committed and competent leader than Thames, a three-time Actor Boy winner who brings intellect and razor-sharp directorial brio to every project he helms. That’s why he’s been HoLung’s go-to guy for so many years no, bringing us musicals like Acts of the Apostles and last year’s big hit King David.

Now comes the Moses remount, with its juggernaut set design and high-wire score that represents a fun but tough creative challenge for the 52-year-old Thames, who’s been a self-admitted ‘theatre baby’ since he ruled the roost at Campion College, alongside colleagues like Cathy Levy, who’ve also gone on to accomplish great things.

Here, TALLAWAH talks with Thames about embarking on this latest creative odyssey, why writing is not his strong suit, and how the HoLung team achieves such grand successes year after year. 

TALLAWAH: Father HoLung has branded this remount as ‘Moses – the Magnificent.’ What say you? 
Greg Thames: I think Moses is definitely one of the most epic shows we have ever done. The scope of it is large; there are a lot of things going on. So the only word I can think of is epic.

TALLAWAH: Parting the Red Sea, that pivotal 10 Commandments scene. What’s the biggest creative challenge you guys faced this time around?
Greg Thames: It’s a remount but there have been changes to the script. There have been changes to some of the music because we have made it more current. We’ve also updated the costuming; the set is very different from the original. And we’ve made Moses’ journey much more interactive and a lot more arduous. We portray that to the audience more than we did before.

TALLAWAH: There are some new songs in this version as well, like “Shame on Me.” Is the music the strongest asset?
Greg Thames: I think with every Father HoLung show, the music tends to stand out. Father has a style that’s very different. He mixes in very Jamaican themes, and there’s a kind of dancehall deejaying mixed into [Moses] now that we never had in the older version of the show. So it makes it more current.
TALLAWAH: You’ve been HoLung’s go-to director for several years now. What makes the creative partnership work so well?
Greg Thames: I think it’s because we’ve worked together for so many years. Robin Baston has been the technical director, PJ Stewart has been on set, Wynton [Williams] has been the Musical Director, and I’ve been directing. So the team knows each other’s strengths, weaknesses and how they work. It’s now at that point where we literally can anticipate what each person will bring, which makes it a really good partnership. I think Father has grown to trust the group; he knows us very well. So when we make changes or we suggest different things, he trusts us that we have the vision to take it through and not lose what he’s trying to impart. Because at the bottom of every show is evangelism, and it’s about reaching the people with a message.

TALLAWAH: Do you have plans to write and stage a theatrical hit of your own sometime in the future?
Greg Thames: Me? I don’t think writing is my strong point. I know my own strengths and weaknesses, and I don’t think writing is one of [the strengths], and I’m good with that.

TALLAWAH: Take us down memory lane. What drew you to the world of theatre and stage directing? How did you get your start?
Greg Thames: I started in theatre from I was in high school [Campion College], and one of my classmates, Cathy Levy, and I put on a production. And since then I’ve worked with the Little People and Teen Players for many years when they were around. I’ve worked with the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company as well. And I’ve been in pretty much every aspect of theatre, I’ve done set designs, costume design and makeup. All of the Actor Boy that I’ve won [three in total] are more for creative design than for directing.

TALLAWAH: Artistic or otherwise, what does Greg Thames consider his greatest achievement to date?
Greg Thames: I think that would be to mount one of these shows (Laughs). These shows are bigger than any of the shows you’ll typically see in Jamaica, and we do one like this every year. So the fact that we keep doing it year after year is a miracle in itself.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

ORIENTAL ORIGINS: Olympia Gallery’s “Conveying the Heart” blends traditional Chinese art, philosophy and history

MADE IN CHINA: Shaowen's work is a classic example of brush and ink making poetry on the canvas.

Li Shaowen’s “Nine Songs” series is best described as a visceral and provocative response to Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ – a powerful artistic statement steeped in history and folkloric artistry.

Thanks to the UWI Mona-based Confucius Institute, seven pieces from this remarkable work are currently on view (through the end of September) at Hope Road’s Olympia Gallery (across the street from the UTech campus), and serve as the main highlight in a show dubbed “Conveying the Heart.” 

But don’t be fooled by the show’s mysterious title, the exhibition is a glorious fusion of traditional Chinese art and modern concepts that come together to create a spellbinding whole. You are simply awed by Shaowen’s expert hand and the details with which he imbues every single piece in the collection. Brush and ink making poetry on the canvas, while reflecting profound, lighthearted and simply fascinating aspects of the Chinese experience – the customs, the flora, the fauna and the people.

From the subtly Cubist realism of “The Lovers” to the lush palette that brings to life pieces like “Plum Blossom” (ink on xuan paper), Shaowen’s meticulous style consistently earns praise. But even so, it’s the Danté depictions you can’t forget – nightmarish scenes emblazoned on silk with the kind of haunting visual power that characterizes the finest artworks anywhere.

“His hands are like magic wands,” someone quips while perusing the pieces on opening night, referring, of course, to Shaowen’s masterful strokes. And you can’t help but agree. Above all, though, there’s rich historical and cultural significance in these works that transcend eras and geographical boundaries. In other words, they’re expressive and enlightening meditations on art and life, passion and pride of place.

> “Conveying the Heart”, a celebration of Li Shaowen’s mastery, remains on view at the Olympia Gallery, through September. Telephone: 927-1608.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Sizing up the early contenders in the Thespy/Actor Boy races

SHOW TIME: The cast of Women Who Roar produced an energy-filled and entertaining production.

With less than four months to go before year-end, where do things currently stand in the race for gold at the upcoming Thespian Spirit Awards and Actor Boy Awards? As expected, there are several strong (and deserving) candidates already jostling for mention, but it’s too early to say definitively who will see their names on the final ballot come February. Even so, that doesn’t mean we can’t throw our hat in the ring in the meantime, with predictions and some analysis, as we await the bounty that’s sure to come in October and leading up to the Christmas holiday season.

Best Actress
BEST BETS: Bertina Macaulay (Woman Tongue) and Nadean Rawlins (Catherine Mulgrave) delivered some of the most praise-worthy work of their illustrious careers this year and seem assured of nominations, thanks to those bravura performances. Leonie Forbes in Not My Child? Absolutely riveting.
POSSIBLES: A serious talent that we need to see more of, Julene Robinson (Seven Shades of Woman) was simply superb, taking on multiple characters in a show filled with megawatt talent. A veteran of the Pantomime Company, Jacqueline Higgins quickly emerged for us as one of the strongest assets in the LTM’s Women Who Roar, which is being remounted for next month’s Heroes’ Week observances. Highly recommended.
LONG SHOT: Returning to her musical theatre roots, Stephanie Hazle (Di Miggle Room) was a delight to watch in Craig McNally’s song-and-dance offering about pride and prejudice, choices and consequences.

Best Actor
BEST BETS: Acclaimed past winners in this category, both at the Actor Boy and Thespies, Donald ‘Iceman’ Anderson (powerful in Not My Child) and Glen Campbell (fantastic in Blind Spot) are by far the strongest leading men we’ve seen on stage all year.
POSSIBLES: Taking on a role that played to his knack for disappearing into aristocratic characters, Jean-Paul Menou was a solid presence as the devoted husband, opposite Rawlins’ titular heroine, in Catherine Mulgrave.
LONG SHOTS: Among today’s bright young leading men who could have terrific careers ahead of them, Ackeem Poyser (3some) and Nicholas Amore (Saving Grace) delivered strong performances, both stepping up as men grappling with very demanding women.

Best Supporting Actress
BEST BETS: A dynamic character actress with an outstanding body of work paying testament to a ‘rich’ life in the theatre, Karen Harriott was a ball of fun and electric energy in Woman Tongue, in which Hilary Nicholson also stood out, particularly in scenes she and Harriott shared together. 
POSSIBLES: Playing pivotal roles that contributed immensely to the overall success of their shows, Rosie Murray (Not My Child), Sakina Deer (Blind Spot) and Shawna-Kae Burns (Seven Shades of Woman) delivered well-crafted characters – women who make it abundantly clear that they will not be ignored.

Best Supporting Actor:
BEST BETS: Our money is on Courtney Wilson (terrifically terrifying in Blind Spot) and Paul Issa (resolute in Catherine Mulgrave) to lead the pack in this category come February.
POSSIBLES: Yet another young actor with promise who deserves more shining time in local theatre, Kadeem Wilson put in the work (and kept his sanity opposite Everaldo Creary!) in Undercover Craziness.
LONG SHOTS: Undercover Craziness would not have been the success it turned out to be without writer/producer/costar Rashiem Shepherd, who gave new meaning to post-traumatic stress disorder. Unassuming actor Junior Williams, meanwhile, refreshingly played against type in Michael Holgate’s Shebada Goes to School, making him a darkhorse to watch in this category.

> NEXT TIME: The writers, directors and breakout stars generating buzz

THE CONTENDER: Gritty and action-heavy, Hands of Stone packs a strong punch

FIGHT CLUB: Ramirez turns up the heat as heavyweight champ and Panamanian hero Roberto Duran.

Ali, The Hurricane, Creed, Rocky, Raging Bull. Boxing films are almost always centred on the most intriguing sportsmen of their generation – real or fictional. And who delivered more intrigue, spectacle, shock and awe than Roberto ‘Manos de Piedra’ Duran, the Panamanian pugilist who was known as much for his bravado and temper as for his relentless prowess inside the ring?

Duran’s fascinating journey from street urchin to globally celebrated heavyweight champ gets a robust cinematic telling in Hands of Stone, a stirringly told and ferociously acted biopic that has no shortage of drama, intermittent humour and the kind of edge-of-your-seat action synonymous with the tough bloodsport.

Edgar Ramirez (Ché) throws himself into the lead, nailing Duran’s mix of ruthlessness and recklessness with aplomb – portraying a man we both root for and occasionally pity. He works hard, he loves his wife and multiple kids (Ana de Armas plays longsuffering wife Felicidad), but his unpredictability and loose-cannon moments are serious cause for concern.

No one knew this better than Harlem’s Ray Arcel (Robert DeNiro, brilliant), the legendary trainer who takes Duran under his wing and transforms his potential into ferocious fighting power. (“A new era for boxing begins with Roberto Duran,” he declares.) But Arcel is often on the receiving end of Duran’s vile temper, and some of their verbal clashes are simply cringe-worthy.

In spite of his flaws, Duran’s meteoric rise from nothing to something ignites his native Panama, with the masses rallying behind him, glued to their TV screens whenever he has an encounter – most notably those two memorable bouts in 1980 with Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond rocking a ’fro, a beefy bod and fancy footwork), who ends up teaching Duran a thing or two about the psychology of competition.

Against the backdrop of contentious US-Panama relations (the Panama Canal and divisive politics frequently wind their way into the plot), the Jonathan Jakubowicz-directed film is both full-throttle entertainment and history lesson, boasting an accomplished supporting cast that includes Ellen Barkin (as Arcel’s devoted wife), Jurnee Smollett (as Leonard’s supportive girlfriend) and John Turturro as a New York mobster who puts the pressure on Arcel.

Overall, Hands of Stone is no tour-de-force, but it’s a sold addition to the ever-growing canon of boxing biopics – spotlighting a complex and compelling figure whose story is a testament to pride and honour, growing up and rising to the occasion. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

Friday, 16 September 2016

ON THE SCENE: Highlights from Guardsman Games, ‘Marlin’ media mingle, King of the Dancehall premiere, and more

THE STARS OF THE SHOW: Sep. 11, Canada. The attractive leads in one of the most buzzed-about movies at this year’s Toronto International Festival (TIFF), actor-director Nick Cannon and his Jamaican leading lady Kimberly “Kimmy” Patterson share lens time at the King of the Dancehall premiere screening party, presented by Ciroc, inside the EFS Lounge in Toronto on the weekend. Costar Busta Rhymes and other crew members were also in attendance. Oscar winners Whoopi Goldberg and Louis Gossett Jr. also play pivotal roles in the movie. (Photo:

DREAM TEAM: Sep. 11, St. Andrew. Dobermans rule! The triumphant duo of David C. Henriques and Kia Williams pose with their trophies after coming out on top at the inaugural Guardsman Games (put on by the Guardsman Group) at Hope Zoo on the weekend. Henriques and Williams outperformed their rivals in a series of rigorous and physically grueling challenges to emerge victors. (Photo: Guardsman Group)

WORK MODE: Sep. 12, Kingston. Looking sharper than Agent 007 in a strong designer suit and shades, Usain Bolt walks in stride with CEO David Butler as he arrives at Digicel Headquarters, Downtown Kingston, to get acquainted with his new job as Chief Speed Officer (CSO). “I prefer a 9.58 to a 9-to-5,” the Olympic legend confessed, “but I think I can run with this.” (Photo: Digicel Jamaica)

ONCE BITTEN: Sep. 13, Kingston. Wray & Nephew’s Dominica Drive hotspot @twentythree was all abuzz on Tuesday evening, as the team behind the 2016 MoBay Marlin International Tournament hosted a media mingle that drew appearances from a who’s who of the corporate and social scenes, namely JPS’ Kelly Tomblin, Appleton’s Gary Dixon and man-about-town Kibwe McGann (above), who got a taste of something good as he sampled the hors’doeuvres that were on the house. (Photo: Skkan Media)

REFRESHER COURSE: Sep. 14, Kingston. Take a sip! A bottle of tropical-fruity iCool, one of Lasco’s most popular beverage brands on the market, holds the attention of PM Andrew Holness, who was getting the grand tour earlier this week, led by Lasco boss Lascelles Chin no less, at the company’s Liquid and Dry Blend facilities. Undoubtedly, Mr. Holness has the most fun job in the country. (Photo: Jamaica House)

THE BUZZ REPORT: The Al Miller verdict, Sean Paul’s baby news, Liguanea Art Festival, and more

DON'T call it a comeback! The Liguanea Art Festival, after a worrisome hiatus, will make its grand return to the local cultural calendar on December 4. The event, which had its last staging in 2014 at the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA), returns to its old stomping grounds – the Liguanea Lane Plaza (where Wendy’s is located) – where it will no doubt attract its usual diverse mix of established and emerging artists and artisans, art lovers, connoisseurs and collectors making their pre-Christmas
purchases…… As expected, Nick Cannon’s cinematic love letter to the Jamaican music scene, King of the Dancehall, met with mixed reviews when it opened at TIFF 2016 in Canada over the weekend. No word yet on its worldwide release date, but according to critics (who praise the movie’s “vibrant energy”), Cannon shows real promise as a filmmaker while starlet Kimberly Patterson (who plays his love interest Maya) is one to watch. Evidently, Kimmy, whose work as a makeup artist and a former assistant to Calabash’s Justine Henzell TALLAWAH is familiar with, is a young woman of many talents. Now, her star is on the rise….. Speaking of gorgeous people, we send our best to Jody ‘Jinx’ Stewart and her megastar paramour Sean Paul, who we hear are expecting their first child together! Prophecy: a boy whose name shall be called Tyrone….. And while SP continues to dominate radio playlists with his addictive Sia collaboration “Cheap Thrills”, his Grammy-winning bro Junior Gong is well on ‘the road to Stony Hill.’ With the 2016 Best Reggae Album nominees to be announced in
early December, will Stony Hill be released in time to be eligible for consideration?..... And while Father HoLung and his tireless team gear up for a spectacular remount of their multi-award-winning musical Moses, everybody is talking about this week’s verdict at the Al Miller trial: a year in the pen or a fine of $1 million. Tell me, is this the final nail in the coffin of the Tivoli saga that’s been haunting us for almost a decade now?..... On a far sunnier note, we must send out kudos and best wishes to our three stunning queens as they embark on their ambassadorial duties – Miss Jamaica Festival Queen Kyesha Randall, Miss Jamaica World Alisha Barrett and Miss Jamaica Universe Isabel Dalley – smart and talented young women who are definitely going places. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

BODY OF EVIDENCE: Journalists examine approaches, challenges to covering police shootings and related issues

MAKING NEWS: Burton (inset) moderated an insightful discussion that touched on key journalism matters. (Below) appearing on Smile Jamaica with Kindy (centre) and host Simone Clarke-Cooper.

In the tough world of beat journalism, few aspects are more fraught with challenges and complexities than the covering of fatal police shootings. There are always multiple sides to the story – from the police account to the eyewitness account to the version that’s finally aired on the nightly news or printed in the next day’s paper. How does the public know who to believe? For the tireless reporter committed to ethics, it takes a collaborative approach with the parties involved to get the story, to get the truth and for justice to be served.

That was the consensus at a special investigative-journalism symposium put on by Global Reporters of the Caribbean at the Spanish Court Hotel’s Worthington Avenue complex last Friday morning. 

Moderated by Zahra Burton (whose award-winning work appears on the TV series 18 Degrees North), the symposium took on the guise of a panel discussion, with contributions from the RJR Group’s Milton Walker, Susan Goffe of Jamaicans for Justice and the well-regarded Kimberly Kindy of The Washington Post.

While Walker painted a vivid picture of today’s Jamaican scenario (the frustrated reporter grappling with fearful witnesses, etc.), Kindy expertly spoke to the scenario in her native United States where research data shows that an average of five police officers are charged annually in cases of fatal shootings. “Now we are seeing more officers being charged,” she told the small but rapt audience, comprised mainly of young media practitioners and veteran members of the fraternity. “And a lot of the time, they are charged because of video evidence.”

That’s something all the panelists agreed on: the supreme importance of video evidence in cases of police shootings, coupled with the introduction of firm policy for cops to wear body cameras. “We need to have some clear policies declared when it comes to body cameras or we’re going to keep having the same problems getting the story,” Kindy noted.
Jamaicans for Justice also liked the idea of cops wearing body cameras. “While we do have some reservations, we welcome the introduction of body cameras,” Goffe said. “We’ve always felt that with video evidence we’ll have more successful prosecutions.”

During a lively and insightful discussion that also featured the playing of a few gruesome video clips highlighting unfortunate shooting incidents (Buckfield, St. Ann; Hollywell Square in Hanover; Washington DC), the point was emphasized that the journalists investigating such cases must always hold fast to credibility, fairness and balance.

“[The Buckfield video] was a stark example of the disparity between the official police account and the actual video account; what the police report and what the news reports,” Goffe noted. “As journalists, how information is released on the victims and the officers involved must be handled properly, especially with ongoing investigations. Media responsibility is key in protecting the integrity of those involved.”

In his brief remarks, the US Embassy’s Joshua Polacheck alluded to the bigger picture. “Investigative journalism is the only way democracy is going to continue to be vital and alive,” he said. “When are the police just doing their duty? When are they overstepping their bounds? So, investigative reporting is important; it’s what keeps our democracy going.”

NEWS FEED: PM Andrew Holness reaffirms education stance + Glowing remembrances for Archbishop Samuel Carter + Dr. Peter Phillips on waiting his turn

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS: On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his ordination as the first native Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jamaica, the life and legacy of the late Rev. Samuel E. Carter was rousingly celebrated during a memorial service at the Holy Cross Church in Half-Way Tree, St. Andrew recently. Archbishop Emeritus Donald Reece led the remembrances as the chief celebrant. “We thank God for sending us such a remarkable Jesuit priest. The Catholic Church can be proud of the role he played in championing the education of our children,” Reece told the sizeable congregation. “His memory lives on through generations. In looking back, those of us who knew him would probably say to him now, ‘Keep on doing what you’re doing, Sammy.’ He proved that he was made of tougher stuff. As his Vicar-General, I never heard him speak negatively of anybody. That was the measure of the man.” Added Montego Bay’s Rev. Burchell McPherson, “He was definitely a man for all seasons who dedicated much of his life to the ecumenical movement and helping the poor.”

‘MY DAY WILL COME’: Vowing to remain respectful of due process when it comes to the future leadership of his beloved PNP, Dr. Peter Phillips says patience is the signal virtue that’s guiding his decisions these days. “Whenever the party leader decides and the party decides and there is a transition to take place, I intend, by the grace of God, to offer myself. With no disrespect to anyone and none to the party leader, I know that a time will come when a transition will take place,” he recently told supporters in Kingston. “I believe in orderly transition. That is why my name is not on any ballot [for] September. There was never any intention for my name to be on any ballot because I believe in the protection of the party.”

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER: If there’s one aspect of his mandate that PM Andrew Holness is unflinching about it’s his belief that every Jamaican child must learn – a stern education policy. “I know in [certain] communities the tremendous struggle that parents go through, and that is why we have reintroduced the no-tuition policy,” he recently emphasized. “We are not saying that education is free, but what we are saying is that every single Jamaican child must have access to education whether or not they can afford it.”