Saturday, 29 October 2016

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Moses heads to North Carolina + Shayne & Julene’s dynamic duo + UWI’s Tallawah Fest aims for more

STAGE PRESENCE: “Nonsense coming out of a pretty woman’s mouth ain’t nonsense at all; it’s poetry.” Those flirtatious words delivered with no shortage of élan by Julene Robinson, playing Camae, the sassy maid who cherishes her “press-and-curl” and likes her coffee “black and bitter” – opposite Shayne Powell as Dr. Martin Luther King – in The Mountaintop. Sharing a sexy, playful chemistry that evolves into something intense, Powell and Robinson were the alternates to Alwyn Scott and Shantol Jackson during the recent run, turning up the heat in a well-made show that ranks among the best productions to grace the Jamaican stage this year. (Kudos to director Patrick Brown!) While Robinson has the pull and passion of an Angela Bassett (who, coincidentally, originated Camae on Broadway, alongside Samuel L. Jackson), Powell’s strong MLK is a troubled preacherman committed to the civil rights struggle but has obviously hit a slippery slope in his personal life. Together, Robinson and Powell sizzle under the lights in a gut-punching two-hander that speaks volumes of writer Katori Hall’s creative imagination and the bright future careers awaiting this couple of talented, fast-rising thespians.

THAT TIME OF YEAR: Every year, local tertiary institutions send out their most talented performers to vie for prizes at the Tallawah Festival at the Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI Mona. Traditionally held in November, the festival provides the youngsters with a terrific platform for artistic and creative expression and audiences with quality entertainment, especially at Best of Tallawah’s crème-de-la-crème showcase. This year’s staging will be just as exhilarating. “It’s coming up and promises to be exciting,” chief organizer Michael Holgate tells us. “I know Dr. [Brian] Heap has done workshops and [lighting director] Nadia Roxburgh has also done workshops. So the quality should be at the usual level, even better this year.” But there’s always room for growth, Holgate makes clear, and the Philip Sherlock team is always looking to spice things up. “We have improved it, but I want it to become an international festival, where we have people from the region and other countries coming here to compete with our local talents,” Holgate explains. “We need a bigger space though. Some new buildings are to be built on campus with Chinese money, and we’ve been promised the Old Dramatic Theatre. And with that kind of larger space, we’ll be able to accommodate lots more people.”

GLOBAL ‘MISSION’: Jamaican theatregoers are not the only ones who’ll get to witness the visual spectacle and sturdy performances that helped make Father HoLung & Friends’ Moses remount such an award-winning triumph. At present, the cast and crew is gearing up to on a stellar show at North Carolina’s Halton Theatre. It’s a major fundraising effort for the Nelson Mandela Prize-winning Missionaries of the Poor, who have embarked on new charitable endeavours all the way in East Timor. “Those funds will go towards our brothers’ work with lepers in East Timor. The brothers will make sure that medication is available to them, that is the first step – then having clothes, food and shelter,” Father HoLung explains. “There we will build a monastery, and an apostolate of Jamaican brothers will sing, play musical instruments and dance, even while they work with these poorest of people.”

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