Thursday, 31 August 2017

OUT & ABOUT: Tarrus Riley + ZJ Elektra + PM Andrew Holness + Craig & Tricia + Assassin + Kaysia Johnson-Vaughn + Tara Playfair

WE OWN THE NIGHT: August 26, Kingston. Recording star Jeffrey ‘Assassin’ Campbell and public relations pro Tara Playfair share lens time and enjoy the vibes at Saturday’s grand finale of the Pepsi Refresh Tour, which drew a supersized crowd and delivered sizzling performances from Christopher Martin, Ding Dong, Ikaya, Aidonia and Assassin.(Photo: Skkan Media)

YOUNG AT HEART: August 25, Kingston. Scotia is always doing good in the neighbourhood. Last Friday, the corporate giants hosted a back-to-school promotions bash, where parents and children met with bank execs, including Manager for Marketing Programmes, Kaysia Johnson-Vaughn, seen here bonding with Zip FM’s resident disc jock ZJ Elektra(Photo: Skkan Media)

POPPING THE QUESTION: August 24, Kingston. Some girls have all the luck! Tricia Anderson was the envy of women everywhere when longtime beau, Craig ‘Craigy T’ Thompson went down on his knees and officially asked her to be his one and only, during a taping of Daytime Live! at the TVJ Studios on Thursday. Chatting with TALLAWAH at Saturday’s Miss Universe Jamaica finale, he told us about his decision to propose. “It’s a decision I took some time to make, but I’m happy with it.” (Photo: Sleek)

STAR OF THE SHOW: August 24, Westmoreland. As expected, the fans came out in their numbers to catch a live performance from Tarrus Riley (seem here with a couple of gorgeous ladies) on the occasion of the 2017 renewal of the Appleton Signature Nights series, which made a stop at Kenny’s Italian Café in Negril last Thursday night. (Photo: Skkan Media)

HEAD OF THE CLASS: August 23, St. Andrew. PM Andrew Holness, who consistently emphasizes the paramount importance of the education mandate to his administration, met with some of the year’s outstanding GSAT scholars, who paid a courtesy call at Jamaica House last week, as they look forward to starting high school in the new academic year, which commences next week. (Photo: Jamaica House)

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

BACK-TO-SCHOOL BLUES: New JTA president issues stern challenge to Gov’t + Spike in textbook prices burdening J’can parents

HIGH COST OF LEARNING: Every summer, back-to-school textbooks expenditure burns a deep hole in the pockets of struggling parents. And given the significant yearly increases, it’s enough to throw the average Jamaican (single moms especially) into a hair-pulling fit. Even so, it’s a sacrifice that has to be made, says Everton Hannam, President of the National Parent Teachers Association. “Books are important tools for education and, in many cases, teachers do not encourage the sharing of books because it limits your progress,” Hannam observes. “So while we call on parents to make the necessary sacrifice, we look forward to the day when just as how we have generic medicine, we can have books of that kind because the printing of books sometimes comes at a high cost, especially when they are imported.”

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER: The nation’s teachers and the Andrew Holness-led administration are heading back to the negotiating table, as the educators have rejected the government’s latest wage offer, according to reports emerging from the Jamaica Teachers’ Association’s 53rd annual conference, being held in Montego Bay. Georgia Waugh Richards has been elected to replace Howard Isaac as JTA president, becoming the 11th woman so elected. She is not mincing words, issuing a stern challenge to the government. “We need teachers to teach and administrators to lead,” Richards told the scores of educators attending the conference. “We therefore call upon the Minister of Education and our government to engage in research as to the real cost of educating one Jamaican child, and we ask that this research finding be a critical part of crafting the national budget.”

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

NEWS FEED: 21-year-old beauty crowned Miss Universe Jamaica 2017

ISN’T SHE LOVELY? On Saturday night, at exactly 11:18 pm, the name Davina Bennett echoed throughout the Grand Ballroom of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel as this year’s winner of the Miss Universe Jamaica title. Wearing the sash Miss D’Marie Institute, Bennett is a 21-year-old chocolate beauty, who stands at 5-feet-nine-inches and sports a neo-soul afro. In addition to a wardrobe valued at $1 million, a cash prize of $300,000 and free year-long membership at the Spartan Health Club, Bennett’s prizes included a travel insurance package courtesy of Axia Insurance, a weekend for two at a north coast-based all-inclusive resort, jewelry from Diamonds International and several gift packages. As for her runners-up, second place went to 27-year-old Jennae Jackson (Miss Lawe Insurance Brokers); Sara-Jade Kow, 23 (Miss Afrostar Traders Ltd) took third; Jodiann Harper, 27 (Miss Matt Corp & Eco Power) came in fourth, while Miss Curves’ Adrianna Byran, 28, rounded out the top five. 

TALK THAT TALK: Jamaica’s got options! Before long, the area code 658 will be available to local phone users, in addition to the original 876 code. According to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), the decision to introduce a second area code was arrived at in anticipation of the growing demand for numbers over the next 25 years. At the same time, as of May 31, 2018, Jamaicans will have to dial 10 numbers (3-digit area code + 7-digit number) when making calls. “We want persons to get in the habit of dialing 10 numbers,” explains Elizabeth Bennett-Marsh, Public Education specialist at the OUR. “It’s a behaviour change we want people to get used to.” In spite of these impending changes, the OUR has moved to assure the public that there will be no increase in telephone charges.

LESSONS LEARNED: Unsurprisingly, concerned stakeholders in the local sporting fraternity are still trying to make sense of Team Jamaica’s low-wattage performance at the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championships, held from August 4-13, in London, England. Technical leader Donald Quarrie has already said his piece about the way forward. Now others are speaking out, weighing in on the make-up of the athletes cohort as well as the coaching staff when the country is being represented on the international stage. “We can’t go on the world stage again and let people hear of cass-cass,” former sprinting powerhouse-turned-Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn recently told an interviewer. “We have a small pool of good coaches who have a reputation, so it’s going to be a little difficult to say the top coaches in Jamaica cannot be a part of the coaching teams going away. It’s best if we have a small pool of coaches. We have to iron this out for the good of Jamaica.”

Monday, 28 August 2017

STRENGTH OF A WOMAN: Debbie Bissoon commits to being a great mom and finds courage to live her dreams

POISE & PASSION: "I'm more driven and I don't make excuses when I fall short," Bissoon, 29, readily admits.

Totally enjoying her role as first-time mom – and getting set to enter her third decade on the planet – Debbie Bissoon is giving thanks and living life like its golden. She tells TALLAWAH why the best is yet to come.

YOU know those people who’ve found their dream jobs and truly come alive when discussing the work that they do? Debbie Bissoon is one of them. On a balmy Thursday evening on the outdoor deck at the Spanish Court Hotel, Bissoon brings a garrulous energy to our conversation, dishing up her experiences so far as Brand Manager for the Bob Marley Group of Companies. 

She’s been in the full-time job for the past three years. “I love it because it stretches me out of my comfort zone. Cedella is a great CEO and I’m guided by the family. Basically, the job has done what I wanted it to do,” says Bissoon whose chief responsibilities include overseeing how the Marley brand is positioned globally. I repeat: dream job.

“The highlights have been so many, but more than anything I enjoy working with Cedella and seeing her just be who she is. You get to see how the Marley family has built up that structure to protect the legacy for future generations and build on it without compromising what their father stood for on a moral and philosophical level,” explains the 29-year-old, who can attest to the hundreds of “crazy emails” the Marley family gets from around the world and where they draw the line. “They have gotten offers to do so many things, but there is a standard and they’ll only agree to things that are in the best interest of preserving Bob’s legacy.”


By all accounts, Bissoon immensely enjoys the pace and scope of her job as Brand Manager, but television will always be her first love. As we all know, prior to joining the Bob Marley Group, she was the longest-serving host of Television Jamaica’s nightly culture and entertainment spot E-Prime. Bissoon brought warmth, poise and eloquence to our living rooms, and it’s a gig she relished. Sadly, she had to walk away from it. Why? “I wanted to do more. [The] RJR [Group] was a great start, but for whatever reason they saw a problem with me doing other things. I didn’t see a conflict of interest but they did. So I had a decision to make, and I’m happy with my decision,” she explains. “Anybody who wants better for themselves is going to go after better.”

As one can imagine, she does look back on her old job with fond memories. “I miss doing TV because off-the-bat it’s the passion,” says Bissoon, who feels the station is not as rigid in their demands on freelance presenters as in years past. “I’ve seen a shift in their structure since I left, in terms of presenters being able to branch out and work in other areas. And I still work with them from time to time. I’ve been invited back for Smile Jamaica. I did the Burger King Schools’ Debate. They respect what I bring to the table.”


If you want to see Debbie Bissoon burst into a contagious cascade of giggles, just mention her baby boy Josiah (she gave birth in April), who has taught her to love all over again. “It’s so surreal. Motherhood is without a doubt my greatest accomplishment in life. He’s a gem, very bright. He has a mind of his own. Love his mommy to death,” the first-time mother dishes, while the dad, Donovan, sits a few feet away captivated by something on his mobile phone.

But this joyous moment in Debbie’s life could easily have been the opposite, given the fact that in her teens a physician told her that she might not be able to bear children, due to hereditary matters. Debbie declines to go into detail about these hereditary issues, but she always knew God had big plans for her life, and she’s beyond grateful. “My being here is a miracle and having a pregnancy so smooth,” she admits, her eyes brightening. “[My son] has really changed my life. I’m very sensitive of my time and where I put it. I know more is required of me. The best possible chance in life, I want to give that to him.”

Just so you know, Josiah (named after the Biblical king who ascended the throne at eight years old) has his own Instagram account with over 1000 followers. “We call him King Sire,” his doting mom adds, laughing. “Everything I wasn’t able to access growing up, I want him to have.”

If you think motherhood is the only thing that has forever changed Debbie Bissoon for the better, think again. That’s just the icing on the cake. “I’ve grown a lot as an individual and in terms of my expectations for myself. I’m more driven and I don’t make excuses when I fall short. And it helps when you have a partner who guides and supports you,” shares the very accomplished daughter of Clarendon, who spent most of her early years in Vere and attended Clarendon College before going on to do her Language/Communication/Entertainment degree at UWI Mona and subsequently landing an on-air job at Fame FM.

Unsurprisingly, as she gets older, she wants more out of life. “There are certain things that don’t excite me anymore. I’m more serious about stability and making long-term plans for my life. I’m more accepting of myself, and I’m more my authentic self now,” she explains.

And the best is yet to come. In addition to hosting events, plotting a TV comeback and penning a motivational book about motherhood and other real-life experiences (due out in April 2018 on Josiah’s birthday), Bissoon is putting major plans in place to diversify her brand and broaden her reach. “I’m all about the business of creating,” she says. “The more freedom I get to do what I love makes me happy.”

At present, she is the force behind Bissoon Productions, whose projects so far include the appealing, celebrity-endorsed “No Violence in Love” PSA, which they are taking into the schools. “What I most strongly believe in is doing good work and letting that draw people to you. That has been my power,” Debbie asserts. “I’m very grateful for what I did in my 20s, but I procrastinated a lot. For my 30s and 40s, it’s all about revolution.” 

gt; QUICK TAKES: Debbie on looking good and the Rihanna factor 

On summer living: “I’m working non-stop, but I have my girlfriends, a group of us from UWI days, who get together and do fun stuff.” 

On “Wild Thoughts”: “I love DJ Khaled. He’s a smart businessman and a genius for branding. And you can do no wrong with Rihanna’s voice. She appeals to a wide cross-section of people. It’s a nice, liberating single. It’s one of those great feel-good songs.” 

On fashion: “I have a very diverse sense of style. I can go from heels to sneakers. I go with what appeals to me at that particular moment and what is appropriate. I love looking good.”

SOMETHING ELSE: Brash and spicy, Dat A Gwaan blends wit, grit and sly humour

PRIME TIME: Harris in a commanding turn as Sista P; Hall and Lowe as The Bops.

Dat A Gwaan Jamaica (DMH Productions)
Director: Dahlia Harris
Cast: Orville Hall, Chris McFarlane, Maylynne Lowe, Kadeem Wilson and Dahlia Harris
Venue: Phoenix Theatre, New Kingston

BY the time Gully Bop (Orville Hall) ditches Shauna (Maylynne Lowe) for Amaré at the start of the show’s second half, audience members are rolling in the aisles. You come to expect the unexpected while watching Dat A Gwaan Jamaica, a side-splittingly funny dancehall comedy revue (now in its third weekend at the Phoenix Theatre on Haining Road in New Kingston) that finds showrunner Dahlia Harris donning multiple hats – script writer, lyricist, director, producer – to offer theatregoers an evening well worth their hard-earned dollars.

Dat A Gwaan Jamaica, awash with punchlines, musical oomph and keen observations, solidifies Harris’ reputation as a versatile storyteller who knows Jamaica like the back of her hand. She trains the lens of her inquisitive, investigative eye on our ever-colourful, ever-happening dancehall landscape with slices of politics, sports and current affairs bringing the pot to a boil. The result is high-energy, laugh-out-loud entertainment that, in spite of its minor glitches and intermittent hiccups, captures the good, the bad and the ugly.

The show’s strongest asset is easily its dynamic cast. A chameleonic character actress, Lowe brings her A-game to the mix, convincingly disappearing into a series of personalities, from Japanese deejay Rankin’ Pumpkin (in “Steam Pumpkin”) to a delinquent tenant playing hide-and-seek with her hard-hearted landlord (Wilson) in “De Owna.”

Hall (the show’s choreographer) is a solid presence, whether he’s morphing into an irate Rastafarian vendor or talent show judge Scatta Burrell. McFarlane also gets to show some range, when he portrays On Stage host Winford Williams in “Love and Dancehall” and “Love and Dancehall 2” (interviewing Gully Bop and his ladies) and later draws on his commanding baritone to deliver the gritty, Curtis Myrie-penned monologue “Yu A Shotta.”

Wilson, who is woefully underutilized in the show’s second half, brings the laughs as a vendor peddling delicate women’s undergarments.

Harris, meanwhile, could find herself in the Best Actress race come January, thanks to her razor-sharp portrayals of everyone from a no-nonsense Portia Simpson-Miller (“Talk De Tings Sista P”) to a livewire talk-show caller (“Hotline”) to “Rent A Fren’s” belligerent businesswoman who comes to your aid when “backative is lackative.’

Obviously, there is never a dull moment in this celebration of dancehall culture as part of our heritage that is impossible to ignore. The musical revue slant is standard theatrical formula, but you’ll love Dat A Gwaan for its authenticity and brashness, as it delves into Minister Shaw’s sky-high phone bill, the state of West Indies cricket, a post-Ishawna Bandana’s cry for justice and the latest round of drama dominating the dancehall spotlight. To borrow a line from Miss Amaré, Dat A Gwaan Jamaica is truly “something else.” Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

VIENNA CALLING: Future psychoanalyst Gina Hargitay maps out a plan for transforming young lives

POWER POSE: The supersmart beauty and college girl plans to pursue a Masters and a Doctorate in the near future.

Ahead of departing for Austria’s Sigmund Freud University to commence studies in Psychotherapy Science, former Miss Jamaica Gina Hargitay talks to us about social change, sickle cell and saving Jamaican youth.

IN the UK, there’s an initiative called the Jamaicans Inspired Ambassador Youth Programme. Gina Hargitay, a former Miss Jamaica World who moves easily between her European base and her beloved island paradise, serves as lead ambassador for this programme, which distinguishes itself as Diaspora-based initiative connecting second and third generation Jamaicans (living in the UK) to their Jamaican heritage.

“The aim of Jamaicans Inspired is to give these young people a meaningful connection to a culture many of them know very little about,” Hargitay tells TALLAWAH, as she brings us up to date on life in her orbit, on a golden Thursday afternoon at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

What becomes at once obvious is that charity work and initiatives steeped in life-changing social responsibility matter deeply to Hargitay, who won the Miss Jamaica crown back in 2013, at age 18, and has been lending her time and resources to a number of causes since then. In other words, she ranks among those Jamaican beauty queens who take the idea of ‘beauty with a purpose’ very seriously.

Apart from her work with Jamaicans Inspired, she is heavily involved with Sha Sha Mane Sunrise, an organization that does work with three countries in the Caribbean and Africa, delivering school supplies to needy children “to improve their education and give them a strong start in life”; and the Sickle Cell Support Foundation of Jamaica. Hargitay, whose older brother was stricken with sickle cell – (“I have the traits,” she tells us) – wants to see the stigma attached to the illness removed.

“I want to help change the way we view it and the way society treats people with sickle cell. It’s not a disease to be taken lightly,” Hargitay insists. “I really want people to understand that.” Today, thanks to consistent treatment, family support and the input of entities like the Sickle Cell Support Foundation, her brother is alive and well. But she knows scores of Jamaican families are not as fortunate.

Today, using her celebrity and influence to help bring about meaningful change in a country she cherishes goes beyond sickle cell. Jamaican youth need help, and Hargitay sees where she can be of use. This September she’ll be enrolling at the world-famous Sigmund Freud University to pursue a Bachelor’s in Psychotherapy Science, her second degree programme. 

“I want to be a psychotherapist. What I really want to do is help young people on a personal level through psychotherapy. The degree will allow me to come back to Jamaica and work with kids, especially in the inner-city,” she explains. “I think remedial programmes can be improved by using behavioural therapy. For a lot of these kids a great way to help them is to reconstruct their past and show them a different path.”

Hargitay holds a first degree in History and Political Science from the University of Westminster. By fusing the knowledge she gains from both degree programmes, she hopes to widen her reach. “I love history. When you know the past, you know the future because life comes in cycles,” shares Hargitay. It will take her three years to complete her studies in Psychotherapy Science. After that she sees a Masters and a Doctorate on the cards.

Did I mention that she’s just 22 years old? By her own admission, this daughter of a Hungarian dad and a Jamaican mom, has grown by leaps and bounds since taking that first walk as Miss Jamaica. “I have transformed entirely. Growing up, I was very sheltered. Winning Miss Jamaica definitely made me come out of my shell and become more well-rounded. It gave me something meaningful, it gave me such purpose,” she reflects, with wide-eyed candour.

But, of course, in life you have to take the bitter with the sweet. “I think the most challenging part of the whole experience was having to care what people thought about me,” she recalls. “I have had people judge me before they even met me. They think you’re not intelligent, and some think that all beauty queens are stand-offish. So I’ve met people who say they are surprised to find out that I’m really nice. They think you’re just pretty. So those misperceptions give you a chance to really shock them.” She lets out a hearty laugh.

Gina Hargitay, who is six feet tall “without heels,” is a mélange of fascinating contrasts. Her inner nerd loves comic books, the curious intellectual is intrigued by the possibilities of psychology and the glamour girl buys beeswax and shea butter in bulk and concocts her own beauty products, thank you very much.

But what is she most passionate about? Helping people. “I think we can improve the minds of the youth by showing them a brighter path, and I think the [Jamaican] government is starting to see that,” Hargitay observes. She’s looking forward to Vienna with an open mind but vows to let the universe guide her in terms of other future plans. “I want to finish this degree and then I’ll have an idea of where I’m going next. I definitely see myself working with autistic children; they fascinate me. I want to see how I can help them integrate into society to live more meaningful lives,” she explains. 

What about starting a family of her own? “I’m way too young,” she replies, laughing. “Maybe after I have settled in my career, then I’ll start thinking about that. Give me another five years!” 

> GETTING TO KNOW GINA: Some of her culture faves 

Books: To Have of To Be (Erich Fromm); A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking) 
Musicians: Damian Marley, Chronixx 
Movies: Lord of the Rings trilogy; anything in the Marvel series 
Fashion: T&T Designs, Neahlis and Max Mara 
Global Icons: Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou

Monday, 21 August 2017

TALLAWAH MONITOR: Shelly’s baby joy, Donisha Prendergast as leading lady, Suarez Brothers Circus, and more

SPECIAL DELIVERY: It’s a boy! Retired sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and hubby Jason Pryce are the proud parents of a healthy son whom they recently welcomed into their nest. His name is Zyon. Heartiest congrats to the fab couple, who will, of course, make great parents. As Fraser-Pryce has said in the past, motherhood is a role she was born to play. 

APPOINTMENT: There’s a new Chairman at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). Michael Stern, former MP for North-West Clarendon, has been given the nod, following approval from Karl Samuda (Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries). Stern, who replaces Genille Attalla (who resigned in June) was a state minister in the Bruce Golding administration and was among the parliamentarians embroiled in the 2009 dual citizenship issue that dominated media headlines. 

COMING TO TOWN: Ladies and gentlemen, step right this way! The Suaraz Brothers Circus, Mexico’s biggest spectacular attraction (founded in 1872!), is bringing its big top and a host of exciting features and creatures to Kingston (following a stopover in Ocho Rios), pitching tent at the National Stadium Complex from Friday, August 25. With flyers going up all over town and gradually generating a buzz, the SBC ( promises the experience of a lifetime for the entire family. The box office opens at 10am daily. Info hotline: 347-9769. 

SCREEN GEM: Bob Marley’s relentlessly achieving grand-daughter Donisha Prendergast brings her charms and star power to the travel documentary Rasta: A Soul’s Journey, directed by Stuart Samuels and executive-produced by Patricia Scarlett and Marilyn Gray. Rasta is the opening number for the 2017 Cinema Paradiso Portie Film Festival (now in its 7th year), on this month at Great Huts in Portland. A national tour is also being planned. For more information call 857-7828. 

WORTHY CAUSE: Recording artistes Jeffrey ‘Assassin’ Campbell and Jermaine Edwards have agreed to serve as ambassadors for the new ‘Save a Child, Save a Nation’ initiative (under the auspices of the Ministry of National Security and the Department of Correctional Services ‘We Transform’ programme). “I am humbled and honoured to have been considered for such an initiative. I think it’s critical that we all play whatever role we can in the development of our young people, our future,” Campbell offers. “Being a father, I understand that it takes real effort and commitment.”

Saturday, 19 August 2017

5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED: Multifaceted star Neisha-Yen Jones on dreaming big, self-discovery and telling the truth

AS I AM: "I love knowing more and having something to give back," the 30-someething phenom tells us.

DIVERSIFYING the résumé is the name of the game for Neisha-Yen Jones. She’s won acclaim on Broadway and in London’s West End, starring in shows like The Lion King and The Harder They Come. She’s lectured at the Edna Manley College’s School of Dance (she returns as a part-time instructor August 28). And local TV audiences have been getting to know her as a co-host of Daytime Live, a weekday gabfest on TV-J. This summer (while teaching musical theatre classes for Avant Academy), Jones is appearing in her first commercial production on the Jamaican stage, nabbing the female lead in David Tulloch’s explosive hit White Skin, Black Heart. Here, Miss Jones takes a moment to reflect on her journey: 

The Art of Performance 
“The best performance comes when it’s the truth; when it’s honest work you’re presenting. The purpose of art is to tell the stories of life, and so you have a responsibility to be honest.” 

“Women should always dream big. You should know that no pain lasts forever, no happiness lasts forever. You’re not as fat today as you thought (Laughs). You’re not as insecure as you feel and, as women, we’re more powerful than we know.” Success “It can only be measured by you. Don’t let anyone define your success for you. They have no right to put you in a box. I remember when I got to play Nala in The Lion King, and when it was over I was feeling empty because I was letting other people decide what that accomplishment meant. Now I see that the greatest success comes by just excelling in life and doing things I never thought I would do.” 

Being True to Yourself 
“I think that’s the most important thing. I think people too quickly get comfortable with where they are and what they’ve done. You have to keep searching deep within, take life in stages and don’t allow others to define you. I never knew I would be hosting a TV show or starring in a play, so you have to keep redefining you and do what you know makes you happy.” 

“It’s surprisingly wonderful (Laughs). I love my body more. I love knowing more and having something to give back like this musical theatre class I am teaching and choosing who I get to share that with. Now I know what I love. I know myself more.” 

> MORE NEISHA: Read our August 2016 piece on the stage star-turned-TV hostess

Thursday, 17 August 2017

YOU, ME & SHE: ‘Matey Chronicles’ whips up a combustible mix of sex, secrets and scandal

MAKE YOUR CHOICE: Things get pretty heated between Deer and Wilson.

The Matey Chronicles (Jambiz Productions) 
Director: Patrick Brown & Trevor Nairne 
Cast: Courtney Wilson, Sakina Deer, Sharee Elise and Glen Campbell 
Venue: Centrestage Theatre, New Kingston 

WHAT’s a prominent public figure to do when his sweetheart starts revealing intimate details of their affair on her blog, which quickly amasses an ardent following and becomes the hottest piece of gossip at the barber shop and the beauty salon? That’s the scandalous situation Isaiah Jakes (a commanding Wilson) finds himself in when Lola Stone (Deer, terrific) starts dishing about her mysterious “Mr. X” in cyberspace before a global audience. 

Lola, a gorgeous but needy girl, has no qualms about being the other woman (the ‘matey’ in Jamaican parlance), but it’s been two years of promises, promises and Isaiah sneaking to her apartment in the dead of night (disguised as her granny!) for hanky-panky. She feels she deserves more. For Lola, the time has come for him to put a ring on it. Never mind that Isaiah’s been married to the oblivious yet devoted Minerva (Elise, convincing as a Sunday-School-teacher type) for 22 years. Lola gives him an ultimatum: she’s tired of waiting and he must choose between her and the wife. 

Yes, sparks fly and tempers flare in Patrick Brown’s The Matey Chronicles, an edge-of-your-seat, popcorn-worthy comedy-drama that’s so juicy that by the time the plot is set, you’re dying to see how the action will climax and ultimately conclude. 

Brown’s storytelling prowess never ceases to amaze, and though the ending could have been a bit more imaginative, The Matey Chronicles comes off as a well-spun and thought-provoking piece of work, delving into matters of the heart, attitudes towards matrimony, choices and consequences. You alternately cheer and chastise these characters as they hurt each other, make up and begin the cycle all over again. 

Every the brilliantly versatile performer, Campbell is the fourth wheel this time around, appearing as Ras B, Isaiah’s long-serving gardener, personal chauffeur and a shoulder to cry on when the Lola mess hits the fan. Though the play echoes predecessors like The Baby Scam, Brown and Nairne manage to bring a freshness to the production that goes in hand in hand with its tabloid appeal – and the very natural acting style that the players (all Jambiz veterans) bring to the stage. 

A suitably functional set design and apt lighting make strong contributions to the show’s overall success. 

If nothing else, The Matey Chronicles is a bonafide conversation starter. For one thing, it’s bound to have the restless husbands in the audience weighing the pros and cons of embarking on extra-marital romps. At the same time, the mateys, too, have to take an honest appraisal of such relations – the betrayal, the heartache. As for the wives: it’s midnight, do you know where your man is? Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

NEWS FEED: Holness launches youth summer work programme + St. Thomas girl cops Farm Queen title + Quarrie lays down the law

WORK TO BE DONE: Over the course of the next four weeks, some 2300 youths across the island will be employed under the National Youth Service Employment Programme. The programme, launched by PM Andrew Holness at Jamaica College on August 10, will see the young workers engaged in the auditing of street lights, identifying vulnerable persons within communities who may require assistance during periods of natural disasters and other forms of emergency, and identifying streets for which signs are missing. “Some street lights are on but the lights are dim. We want to know which street lights are out, so that we can better provide the service for the communities,” Holness told the gathering. The youth work programme is being spearheaded by the local government ministry and will run from August 4 to September 8. Each worker will be paid a weekly $8000 stipend. 

WINNER TAKES ALL: One of the highlights of the annual Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon is the crowning of the National Farm Queen. This year’s winner is Trudiann Ashmead, a 25-year-old St. Thomas native currently pursuing gender and development studies at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). In addition to a handsome cash prize from title sponsors Nutramix, Ashmead won a scholarship to pursue studies of her choice at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) and will embark on a two-week exchange programme courtesy of Delaware State University. 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? What’s the way forward for Jamaica’s senior athletics programme in the wake of the disappointing results gleaned at the 16th IAAF World Championships in London – not to mention the shocking report of an altercation between two of the country’s female representatives at the championships? Taking stock and looking ahead, technical leader Donald Quarrie has laid down the law. “Guidelines are going to have to be set up and enforced, and athletes are going to have to understand that if you are not prepared to step up to the line, you can be replaced – even if it means we are not going to win,” Quarrie told The Gleaner’s André Lowe. “We have to start somewhere as it relates to certain disciplinary means of making sure our athletes realize that when it comes to the country – especially in the relays – the country comes first.”

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

TALK OF THE TOWN: J'can sprintng has "taken a pause," says Donald Quarrie

What are we to make of Team Jamaica's dismal showing at the just-concluded London World Championships? Some people feel it was an immense letdown, given our tendency to dominate the sprints and come away from these global championships with no less than eight medals. This time around, we bagged half of that amount (one gold and three bronzes). Is the high standard of our athletics gradually eroding? The best person to answer is Donald Quarrie, the contingent's technical leader, who says "we have taken a pause." But what does this mean exactly? "Things have not come through the way [we] planned, and that's part of track-and-field," he is quoted as saying. "Let's go back to the drawing board, maintain our name and standard in the sprints and build up the other areas. We have taken a pause, but we will be a force to reckon with very soon again." As they say, optimism should always win in the end... 

The JCDC has been winning all season long and deserve magnificent kudos for the excellent production value they brought to the Emancipendence/Jamaica 55 events inside the National Arena - from the Festival Queen coronation, Gospel Song Finals and World Reggae Dance to Mello Go Roun' and the lavish Grand Gala that people are still talking about. Does this mean the Stadium Complex has replaced the Ranny Williams Centre as the home base for the annual Emancipendence festivities? 

And speaking of winners, we have to give props to the original Dancehall Queen Carlene, who is still fit, fly and fabulous after all these years. Carlene was one of the judges for the World Reggae Dance Championships, and she was a sight for sore eyes. She's still got it! 

While 15 Usain Bolt Tracks & Records are set to spring up across the UK over the course of the next five years, it seems Fiction (its Marketplace neighbour) is on its way back to the top of the night-life food chain, having been refurbished, reconceptualized and 'reopened' for the word-hard, play harder VIPs, to the tune of US$1 million. "The room is completely new and we're not done yet," boasts smart businessman and big spender David 'Squeeze' Annakie


> Will you be tuning to The Rich & The Ruthless, a new soap opera produced by Victoria Rowell (The Young & The Restless), set to air on TV-J? 

> Is the upcoming Pride Jamaica Conference an invitation-only event or will it be open to the general public?

BEAUTY OF THE WEEK: Actress Lakeisha Ellison stays health-conscious amidst life-and-work challenges

RARE BIRD: "Things I know now I'm applying them. I'm honing my craft more," says the actress, pictured below with Frenemy costar Oliver Samuels.

"I don't worry. Things I know have no control over I don't let them bother me. I try to put myself at a better place at all times. That keeps me young. I focus on what's necessary," dishes Lakeisha Ellison, looking like a dime piece backstage at the Jamaican Shopping Club Theatre, where she is co-starring in her latest play, Frenemy, opposite Oliver Samuels, Dennis Titus and Volier Johnson. 

As she tells TALLAWAH, the production, which opened last month and runs for several more weeks before going on tour, is keeping her on her toes. In fact, it's made her realize some personal shortcomings. "It takes a lot out of you in rehearsals and in the show. It really gets in your brain," she says. "So I realized that I'm slacking up when it comes to exercising regularly and taking my vitamins and minerals." 

For this veteran actress and working mother of a teenage son, tending to her health and well-being is of paramount importance. It goes without saying. "Usually I'm the kind of person who will work out a bit in the morning, not a lot. I still do it, but I'm getting older. I like to stay healthy. I drink a lot of water because when I don't it shows on me," she explains. "I like the way I look. I love my body." 

With her curly diva tresses, hoop earrings and slender physique, Ellison is the very picture of secure womanhood. For her, being comfortable in her own skin has simply been a journey of self-acceptance, hard work and being principled. 

"I don't wear makeup unless I have a show. I don't party. I don't smoke. Staying away from those things helps you to keep your youth," notes the actress, who confesses that she's "not enjoying meat any more." "I love young people," she adds. "I have a lot of friends who I can depend on for support and I have a son, big man now, who has taught me to love unconditionally and never give up on your child." 

Ellison, who loves a good live performance (she enjoyed Spice's set at last month's Reggae Sumfest) has been having a solid run in local theatre, since emerging from the Area Youth Foundation and finding solo stardom. She's worked with everyone from Ellis International (He Said, She Said) to Jambiz Productions (Blind Spot) and is now doing a radio drama (Money Dirt on Roots FM) and gearing up to begin shooting a classic love story with a Jamaican twist for director Paul Bucknor and Firefly Films.

"I actually feel very good about my growth. Things I know now I'm applying them. I'm honing my craft more," says the soon-to-turn 40 Ellison. "I am comfortable with my career, but I know I have a long way to go."

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

CHAT 'BOUT: Phillips on modernizing agriculture, Chisholm on freedom of speech, Matalon on Tracks & Records' global expansion...

"For Jamaica I believe this signifies the first time a local, home-grown concept has evolved into becoming an international franchise. This confirms Brand Jamaica's potential and gives us widespread hope that we can export many other Jamaican brands through this business model." — FranJam's Gary Matalon confirming news that they've inked a deal with Casual Dining Restaurants Group (CDRG) to open 15 Usain Bolt Tracks & Records branches in the UK over the course of the next 15 years

"Over the last 30 years, we've had a tripling of the crime rate and the intake of cases into the system and the same number of courts. We are reaping the benefits of what we have sown because successive governments have treated the justice system like Cinderella without any hope of ever finding a prince." — DPP Paula Llewellyn speaking out on what she deems the decades of neglect of the judicial system by successive administrations resulting in an increased backlog of Home Circuit Court cases

"Too many of our farmers still operate within the support of marketing, which is available to other farmers in other countries. I say this not to blame anyone, but just to make the point that as we go forward into the next phase of our Independence, we must determine not only to feed ourselves but to feed ourselves by supporting a modern farming community." — Dr. Peter Phillips addressing attendees at last week's 65th anniversary staging of the Denbigh Agricultural show in Clarendon

"You definitely can't celebrate Prof. Brendan Bain's freedom of expression yet demonise others (like Bishop Howard Gregory and Garnett Roper) when they exercise their right to freedom of expression in a view with which you disagree." — Theologian Clinton Chisholm weighing in on responses to the Brendan Bain ruling and the renowned buggery-law debate

"The output from schools creates society. Students have so many rights these days you wonder what is wrong. People in the 40, 50, 60 age groups came up in the old school system and have a better sense of what's right and wrong. Now that that is removed, everyone is doing their thing because they have rights. And then you have these demands being placed on youngsters and the outcomes are unfortunate, as in this case." — Meadowbrook High School principal, Michael Peart, responding to the shooting death of promising 17-year-old student and Arnett Gardens resident Mickolle Moulton

FIRE & ICE: Tulloch delivers edge-of-your-seat thrills with latest hit, White Skin, Black Heart

THE WAY WE WERE: Rubie and Tulloch play ex-lovers who don't always see eye to eye.

White Skin, Black Heart (Probemaster Productions) 
Director: David Tulloch 
Cast: Neisha-Yen Jones, Kimberly Rubie, Gracie-Ann Watson and David Tulloch 
Venue: The Blue Room (Phoenix Theatre), New Kingston 

THE discerning theatergoer in the market for a well-spun, balanced and strongly acted play to take in this summer can hardly do any better than White Skin, Black Heart, the explosive new dramedy from writer-director David Tulloch. Tulloch scores again, leaving no stone unturned with this gut-punching exploration of relationship dynamics, mental health, trust and addiction, among other provocative issues. 

You’ll laugh, clap, cringe and get downright cross as you take in the antics of these folks caught up in bitter domestic disputes, messy breakups and the never-ending struggle to get it right or let go and walk away. In spite of its claustrophobic setting (a quibble for almost every play staged in The Blue Room) and one-note lighting, White Skin strikes powerful and authentic notes as it delves into matter of the heart. 

Neisha-Yen Jones gives a dynamite performance in the central role, playing Kerry, a good-natured woman who just lost her job in Kingston but has found love with a great man (Tulloch as smooth operator Nicholas), who has asked her to come share his MoBay apartment while she sorts things out. She gladly accepts. 

But, as Kerry soon discovers, some things are just too good to be true. Not only does Nicholas have an 11-year-old daughter (Nastassia Prendergast as Jillian), he has to share custody with the world’s craziest ex-wife – a snooty fair-lady-in-pearls named Madison (played to the hilt by newcomer Kimberly Rubie) – who makes it clear that she’ll make life difficult for her ex-husband’s new flame. Baggage, baggage, baggage.

But Kerry is no Mother Teresa, given the secrets she’s been harbouring from a past that Nicholas seems to know very little about. Meanwhile, Gracie-Ann Watson brings ample comic relief to Tension Central as Kerry’s ghetto-fabulous sistren Stacey, who preaches a powerful fight-for-your-man message. Shaun Drysdale rounds out the cast as her boo, Marcus. 

It’s a deeply felt and realistic show that brings the humour, soap opera drama and some erotic electricity and fireworks. 

Tulloch deserves kudos not just for a splendid script and assured direction but for a performance that’s both convincing and nuanced. Jones’ Broadway/West End experience comes in handy as she transforms Kerry into an embattled woman who owns her flaws and shortcomings and is willing to fight for her happy ending. And who can’t relate to that? Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Monday, 14 August 2017

NEWS & NOTES: Grace Jones biopic for TIFF premiere + First J’ca Pride Conference launched + FSC gets new Exec Director

PREMIERE: Grace Jones has had quite a life, so fans and film buffs are in for a captivating cinematic experience when they take in Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, the hotly anticipated biopic that gets it debut at next month’s Toronto International Film Festival in Canada. Directed by Sophie Fiennes, the film (which has a running time of 115 minutes) offers an unconventional, up-close-and-personal snapshot of Jones’ life, work and evolution, tracing her Jamaican roots (she was born in Spanish Town), personal trials and triumphs and the career highlights spanning the classic albums (including 1985’s Slave to the Rhythm) and big-screen roles (such as playing a Bond girl in A View to Kill). Speaking with the UK’s The Independent, the filmmaker noted that the project got off the ground because the famously private Jones was finally willing to let the world in. The biopic took five years to complete. “Grace had fiercely controlled her public image but made the bold decision to unmask,” Fiennes said in her interview. “The film is a deliberately present-tense experience.” The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is scheduled for September 7 to 17. Visit for details. 

CONFERENCE: Times they are a-changing. According to reports, the inaugural Pride Jamaica Conference was launched on Emancipation Day (August 1) at UWI Mona’s Faculty of Law, with presentations being made by stakeholders in the local LGBT community, including directors of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG). The conference, being planned for sometime later this year, has been dubbed a celebration of LGBT life, culture and issues in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the Diaspora. Andrew Campbell, one of the advocates championing the cause, says the conference represents a significant stepping-stone for the local gay community. Says Campbell, “[The conference is aimed at] creating a forum for LGBT persons, advocates and allies to come together to engage in meaningful dialogue.” 

APPOINTMENT: With his two-decades-plus experience in developing and leading successful economic and regulatory policy initiatives in the public sector, Everton McFarlane seems ideally cast in the role of the Financial Services Commission’s (FSC) new Executive Director. The appointment took effect August 2. As ED, McFarlane will lead the team’s mandate to deliver a balanced, consistent and effective regulatory programme “that will inspire confidence in Jamaica’s financial system.” A former Financial Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, McFarlane (above with finance minister Audley Shaw) has played key roles in driving the development of comprehensive frameworks on tax policy reform and financial services regulation. A UWI Mona graduate, he holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics.