Tuesday, 24 January 2017

PEOPLE POWER: ‘The Upses’ weave a tuneful and visually appealing Jamaican story

THIS IS HOME: Downzie residents are not giving up without a fight in the LTM's new song-and-dance show.

The Upses & De Downzies Dem (LTM National Pantomime) 
Director: Robert ‘Bobby’ Clarke 
Cast: Kevin Halstead, Faith Bucknor, Nicole Taylor-Thompson, Ray Jarrett and Antoinette Perkins 
Venue: Little Theatre, Kingston 

Irrepressible community spirit gets a lively musical beat in The Upses & De Downzies Dem, the 2016/17 LTM National Pantomime, which brims with colourful exuberance and high energy from the young and young-at-heart performers who make up the big cast. 

With book and lyrics by Barbara Gloudon, direction by Bobby Clarke and contributions from a creative team that also includes Anya Gloudon-Nelson (vibrant costumes), Michael Lorde (elaborate set design), Jermaine Gordon and Calvin Cameron (ear-pleasing music), with Patrick Earle and George Howard (rhythmic choreography), the production drives home the point that the disparity between the haves and the have-nots, ‘uptown’ and ‘downtown’, will forever be a source of conflict. 

And that’s exactly what plays out in this commendably scripted show that paints a vivid portrait of a typically Jamaican class-conflict scenario, without losing the humour or the family-friendly slant.

Ribba-To-De-Bank is home to a set of poor but close-knit and upstanding citizens who call themselves ‘Downzies.’ Not far from their community is the Upsie Mansion, the palatial residence of Ginneral Upsie (Halstead) and Lady Upsie (Taylor-Thompson) who, along with their teenage boys Diego (Donovan Stewart) and Miguel (Ricardo Campbell) enjoy a lifestyle steeped in luxury. They gained much of their wealth by acquiring and developing property. Now they’ve set their sights on taking over Ribba-To-De-Bank, which would mean forcing the people off their land. 

But the Downzies, led by their Mayor (Jason Williams), matriarch Miss Mack (Faith Bucknor) and wise woman Gran-Gran (Maxann Stewart-Legg) will have none of it. Both sides agree to meet to come up with a mutually beneficial solution. But, of course, that’s easier said than done. Meanwhile, romantic sparks flicker between the bookish Miguel and young Downzie activist Maya (strongly played by Antoinette Perkins), adding a sweet sub-plot to the story. 

As for the musical numbers – accompanied by a competent eight-piece mini orchestra – such selections as “Downzie Life”, “J-U-S-T-I-C-E” and the fierce protest tune “Ribba-To-De-Bank” are most memorable. 

When it comes to the annual pantomime, there are usually a few lapses here and there in the overall flow of the action but, by and large, the purpose of such a production is to provide entertainment for everyone, from primary schoolers to parents to older folks, which makes the process a bit more challenging for the creative team. 

Thankfully, The Upses & De Downzies Dem is consistently a delight – tuneful, humorous and great to look at. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

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