Wednesday, 28 February 2018

ON WITH THE SHOW: The 10 Best Theatre Productions of 2017

THE PLAY'S THE THING: The School of Drama delivered a splendid take on Errol Hill's classic about dashed hopes and dreams deferred.

From Persian queens to ambitious go-getters in search of a better life, from conflicted lovers to long-lost relatives mending fences, the best plays of the past year were rich in character, high in entertainment value and replete with strong messages. Herewith, TALLAWAH highlights (in no particular order) the cream of the crop – the 10 best theatrical productions we saw in 2017. 

The School of Drama did remarkable justice to this Errol John classic, capturing the angst and anxiety, poverty and struggle for prosperity, of the period. The sharp student actors delivered committed performances all around. 

Interracial romance, pride and prejudice and revenge served cold created a spiky blend in this edge-of-your-seat domestic drama, written and directed by David Tulloch, and offering a solid breakout turn from newcomer Kim Rubie. 

There were no mixed messages in this well-made comedy-drama from Patrick Brown, who offered loyal Jambiz audiences a thought-provoking and amusing meditation on ambition, deception and ghetto pressures. Pitch-perfect. 

Basil Dawkins harked back to dem good ole days in this richly entertaining four-hander about fractious family dynamics and picking up the pieces. Ruth HoShing sizzled as an unhinged matriarch and Earle Brown was spot-on as a cantankerous widower whose idyllic country life is disrupted. 

Few playwrights know Jamaica as well as Dahlia Harris, who penned, directed and co-starred in this winner – a clever and wickedly funny sketch-comedy revue that strikes all the right notes. 

Adulterous relations bring tonnes of baggage, as the secret lovers are minded in this sturdy domestic drama-comedy about choices and consequences. Under direction from the dynamic duo of Patrick Brown and Trevor Nairne, Sakina Deer delivered some of the best work of her career, opposite Courtney Wilson who was in fine form as a prominent figure who breaks his marriage vows and is made to feel the heat. 

Rosie Murray was in her element as she dished up her experiences in this spicy one-woman show, recalling the girl she was and the woman she became. The stellar actress has had quite life, full of highs and lows, but she makes it clear that she has no qualms about sharing her testimony and her truth. 

Some women are as old as they feel. Janet (an excellent Renae Williams) belongs to this category. She is the flawed, complex heroine at the centre of Fabian Barracks’ terrific play about mother-daughter dynamics, family secrets and teen pregnancy. 

Great ensemble acting anchored this true-to-life dramedy (penned by first-timer Kevin Jones and directed by David Tulloch), which tackled office politics and sexual harassment, while putting a fresh spin on power and ego, betrayal and greed – and the workplace as battlefield. 

The very accomplished team of Father HoLung (book and lyrics), Wynton Williams (music), Greg Thames and Hugh Douse (direction), Paula Shaw (choreography) and Nadia Roxburgh (lighting design) worked its signature magic tricks in bringing this action-packed Biblical saga to rousing life.

CRÈME DE LA CRÈME: The 2017/18 Thespian Spirit Awards Nominations


Dat A Gwaan Jamaica 
Moon on a Rainbow Shawl 
Pressure Drop 
Right Girl, Wrong Address 
White Skin, Black Heart 


Sakina Deer – Matey Chronicles 
Sharee Elise – Right Girl, Wrong Address 
Dahlia Harris – Dat A Gwaan Jamaica 
Fredreeka Smith – Moon on a Rainbow Shawl 
Renae Williams – Wah Sweet Nanny Goat 


Earle Brown – Pressure Drop 
Akeem Mignott – Right Girl, Wrong Address 
Ray Jarrett – Dapper Dan 
Jason Richards – Moon on a Rainbow Shawl 
Courtney Wilson – Matey Chronicles 


Kenesha Bowes – Right Girl, Wrong Address 
Jodian Findley – Something Fishy 
Ruth HoShing – Pressure Drop 
Kim Rubie – White Skin, Black Heart 
Terri Salmon – Jamaica Sweeter 


Glen Campbell – Matey Chronicles 
Kaleb D’Aguilar – 70X7: The Real Truth 
Leighton Jones – Queen Esther 
Ricky Rowe – Jamaica Sweeter 
Dennis Titus – Frenemy 


Jodian Findley – Something Fishy
Crystal Fletcher – Wah Sweet Nanny Goat 
Neisha-Yen Jones – White Skin, Black Heart 
Kim Rubie – White Skin, Black Heart 
Samantha Thompson – Sever the Ties 


Fabian Barracks – Wah Sweet Nanny Goat 
Patrick Brown – Right Girl, Wrong Address 
Basil Dawkins – Pressure Drop 
Dahlia Harris – Dat A Gwaan Jamaica 
David Tulloch – White Skin, Black Heart 


Patrick Brown & Trevor Nairne – Right Girl, Wrong Address 
Douglas Prout – Pressure Drop 
Greg Thames & Hugh Douse – Queen Esther 
David Tulloch – White Skin, Black Heart 
Eugene Williams – Moon on a Rainbow Shawl 


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

THIS ISLAND NOW: Dat a Gwaan Jamaica serves up a clever and superfunny remix

COMIC RELIEF: With a solid cast and hilarious sketches, the revue deserves its encore.

Dat a Gwaan Jamaica Remix (DMH Productions)
Director: Dahlia Harris
Cast: Chris McFarlane, Everaldo Creary, Kadeem Wilson, Shanique Brown and Dahlia Harris
Venue: Phoenix Theatre, New Kingston

“THE remix ah go sweeter.” That’s no idle boast. It’s a promise that thoroughly delivers. The sequel to the dancehall comedy revue Dat A Gwaan Jamaica, penned and directed by Dahlia Harris, buzzes with an infectious energy and packs the kind of laugh-out-loud humour that audiences crave when they flock to the theatre to get their money’s worth.

Like its predecessor, the show employs music, ghetto-fabulous excitement and rib-tickling comedy in casting a keen, mischievous eye over the national status quo. This time around, there’s no Gully Bop drama and Minister Audley Shaw is spared a roast. Instead, the spotlight captures a Religious Hardtalk showdown between Mutabaruka (Everaldo Creary) and host Ian Boyne (Chris McFarlane). 

Police Commissioner hopeful Novelette Grant (Shanique Brown) goes to seek advice from a man who can see things. And Harris takes a poke at Jamaica’s “begging problem,” playing a female emigrant sending holiday greetings from abroad and lamenting the strains of “foreign life.” 

Meanwhile, Kadeem Wilson shows some versatility, performing “State of Emergency,” a dance number driven by the boom and bass of poor-people governor Rodney ‘Bounty Killer’ Price. McFarlane gets a splendid monologue moment when he delivers “InSecurity,” sharing the colourful experiences of a former top cop who is given the boot.

Harris’ household helper is back with more concerns and observations, placing yet another call to Miss Emily’s “Hotline,” while dusting her employer’s living room. And fans of the original Dat a Gwaan Jamaica will rejoice to get a second serving of Ishawna’s bandana and the side-splittingly funny “Rent A Fren’” skit.

In short, Dat a Gwaan Jamaica Remix, with its competent cast, is sketch comedy/musical revue done right, blending gossip and ghetto gospel with message and non-stop amusement. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

KINGDOM COME: Black Panther delivers a visually crisp and action-packed 3D triumph

BORN LEADER: Boseman plays T'Challa, king, son, warrior, hero.

IN every society there comes a time when somebody feels it’s time for change. Time for a different way of doing things; time for a new leader to rise. Some agree, some don’t and the result is often a divisiveness that leads to disastrous conflict. It’s this kind of conflict that’s at the heart of the long-awaited 3D epic Black Panther, based on Stan Lee’s Marvel comic, which opened in theatres last week.

Directed by Ryan Coogler (who co-wrote the script with Joe Robert Cole), Black Panther is a dizzyingly entertaining and frenetically paced action fantasy spectacle that more than lives up to the hype. Its cross-generational appeal sets it apart from the other Marvel fantasy flicks that flock to the cineplex every year. What’s more, it’s fuelled by astonishing Black star power.

Chadwick Boseman (last seen in Marshall) is fine form as he tackles the extremely physical title role, complete with high-tech catsuit. As the heroic T’Challa (aka the Black Panther), he is the newly installed king of the African country of Wakanda, which his beloved father ruled until his untimely death.

Wakanda is an endlessly fascinating place, blessed with vast wealth and enviable resources and a technology they’ve managed to keep secret for generations. Selfish or wary of outside influence? In no time, T’Challa has his hands full, grappling with opposition to his rule and the re-emergence of an old Wakandan enemy, Ulysses Klause (Andy Serkis), who is keenly interested in their vibranium, a powerful metal that they country has in copious abundance.

But T’Challa’s toughest test arrives in the guise of a long-lost relative named Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who sets his sights on the throne. It’s an unforeseen development that changes everything, and life in Wakanda may never be the same.

With its stunning 3D visuals and intriguing plot points, Black Panther vigorously explores tragic family history and vengeance mixed with a sturdy look at kings and succession, and a people fighting to protect their resources and way of life. No one is more committed to this fight for Wakanda than Okoye (Danai Gurira), the fearless, tough-as-nails warrior and army general whose most potent asset may be that gleam in her eyes. You want her on your team.

The movie’s A-list supporting cast is superb, with Lupita Nyong’o playing Nakia, the voice of reason among the people of Wakanda and the most loyal of T’Challa’s supporters. Fellow Oscar winner Forest Whittaker plays Zuri, their wise old spiritual leader; newly minted Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) is W’Kabi, a respected adviser to the king; Letitia Wright is T’Challa’s tech-savvy baby sis Shuri whose brain power belies her tender years; newcomer Winston Duke plays M’Baku, leader of the Jabari tribe; and Angela Bassett puts in a scene-nabbing, accent-rich performance as the devoted queen mother. (“My son, it is your timmme.”) Martin Freeman and Sterling K. Brown also make appearances.

Coogler does a very fine job weaving all the elements into a compelling, entertaining whole. Interestingly, the soundtrack is rather subtle, never competing with the visuals or the on-screen action for prominence. 

Audiences will enjoy being transported to this otherworldly place called Wakanda, where T’Challa’s baptism of fire as ruler offers lessons steeped in the fact that uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

BOOK OF THE MOMENT: Ambassador Richard Bernal highlights regional cooperation and J’ca-US relations in latest effort

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Bernal's book recounts much of his experiences as Jamaica's man in Washington.

WITH his richly insightful books and academic papers, Ambassador Richard Bernal puts his much sought-after expertise on matters concerning regional cooperation and international relations in accessible format for his readers across Jamaica, the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Now comes his latest offering, a re-issue of The Influence of Small States on Superpowers: Jamaica and US Foreign Policy, which has been hailed as “an important contribution to the understanding of regional politics, economics, history and international relations.”

Examining such themes and ideas as ‘Small States and International Relations’, ‘How Foreign Governments Attempt to Influence US Foreign Policy’, ‘Foreign Aid and Debt Relief’ and ‘Counter Narcotics Cooperation’, the book is at its core a profound record of Bernal’s time in Washington as Jamaica’s Ambassador from 1991 to 2001.

At the same time, this latest sample of the ambassador’s writing, packing some 456 pages, offers observations on how small nations can influence the foreign policy actions of much larger countries on specific issues of importance.

But Small States on Superpowers dually explores the importance of framing relevant issues within the context of US policy priorities in order to build momentum for progress and ultimate resolution, while recognizing and celebrating the many avenues of access in Washington that allow nations the size of Jamaica to exercise targeted, meaningful influence. 

Still, it is said, the book’s message for CARICOM territories is most urgent via its reminder of what and how much can be achieved when small states find ways to work together. 

Bernal’s previous books include Dragon in the Caribbean and Globalization, Trade and Economic Development: the Cariforum-EU Economic Partnership Agreement. The Influence of Small States on Superpowers was published by UWI Press.

Friday, 23 February 2018

‘REMEMBERING REX’: UWI Singers and NDTC put on splendid tribute concert; Barry Moncrieffe specially honoured

PITCH PERFECT: A rich, harmonious blend elevated the University Singers' song selections.

EVERYONE agrees that the best way to pay tribute to the late great Rex Nettleford is to experience his living legacy in living colour. The new-generation National Dance Theatre Company (under the leadership of newly appointed Artistic Director Marlon Simms) and the University Singers (led by Noel Dexter successor Franklin Halliburton) put on a fantastic show in his honour last Tuesday night – a joint performance dubbed “Remembering Rex,” under the auspices of the Rex Nettleford Foundation.

Full of living colour, visual power and energy, the troupe’s work on the night offered sterling reminders of the indelible contributions that Nettleford made not only to their respective repertoires but to the arts nationally.

The Singers opened with a robust rendition of “Lift Every Voice,” powered by a harmonious blend. With Simms interpreting the music with movement, Halliburton took a solo moment with a splendid performance of “The Lord’s Prayer” before the choir returned centrestage to do “Ave Maria,” a sprightly version that Halliburton arranged.

Elsewhere on the programme, they offered a couple memorable Negro spirituals – Christopher Whyte taking the lead on “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray” and soprano Racine Barrett showing off gorgeous vocals as she led “Ride on King Jesus”.

“Seasons of Love” from Rent also found favour with the sizeable audience as did their “South African Medley”, arranged by Kathy Brown. The “Rocksteady Suite” (arranged by Djenne Greaves) teemed with roots-rockin’ nostalgia.

The dancers, meanwhile, contributed five works to the show. The choreography for 2002’s “Incantation” was supplied by Jeanguy Saintus, while Troy Powell choreographed the engrossing “Unscathed” from 2015. As ever, “Tintinnabulum” (1997) was testament to Nettleford’s penchant for creating works that reflect the deep social forces at work in Jamaican traditions and customs.

Of course, the same can be said of “Kumina,” his 1971 classic, for which Simms and Keita-Marie Chamberlain assumed the roles of King and Queen, under a bright full moon, leading the company to a triumphant curtain call. 

But the night was not all about Nettleford. Barry Moncrieffe, who took over as Artistic Director when Nettleford passed in 2010 and retired from active duty in December, was specially honoured by the foundation, with Ambassador Richard Bernal presenting him with an award for his 55 years with the NDTC. “Fifty-five years is a long time and a long journey, and I wouldn’t have survived without your love and support. Thanks to those who really held my hand along the way,” he said, accepting the honour. “My successor, Marlon Simms, he’s ready.”

Thursday, 22 February 2018

CULTURE VULTURE: Sly & Robbie’s latest honour + Heineken and Sankofa re-team for ‘The Movement’ + Bob’s songs inspire upcoming Hollywood film

> 100 schools islandwide to benefit from anti-alcohol ‘Movement’
Given the prevalence of underage drinking across Jamaica and the increasing importance of alcohol awareness among the youth population, some 100 schools islandwide are being targeted this year for “The Movement,” a Red Stripe/Heineken-sponsored initiative that fuses performing arts and Jamaican dancehall culture with sobering messages. Renowned arts programme facilitator Fabian Thomas (Sankofa Productions) and his cast of actors will present a 20-minute skit, featuring three characters and the life-altering decisions that they make. This is the third year that Thomas and his team are partnering with Red Stripe, now celebrating its 100th anniversary. For Thomas, it’s about using entertainment to spread an important message. “The schools love it, the kids love it, and we are encouraged by the responses,” he tells TALLAWAH. “The response has been so overwhelming that there are ‘movement’ clubs now being formed in several of the school that we’ve visited.” This year’s programme is scheduled to run from March to December.

> Sly & Robbie to receive first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award at YVAs
With 10 Grammy nominations to their credit (1999’s Friends won Best Reggae Album), Lowell ‘Sly’ Dunbar and Robert ‘Robbie’ Shakespeare are indisputably reggae royalty. This Saturday, as the Your View Awards (YVAs) return to the National Indoor Sport Centre for its 10th anniversary staging, Sly & Robbie will be honoured with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is being sponsored by the CHASE Fund. Aptly nicknamed The Rhythm Twins, Sly & Robbie have worked with a who’s who of global music icons over the years – from No Doubt and the Rolling Stones to James Brown and Jimmy Cliff.

> Cedella Marley co-producing film based on Bob’s music
He’s been the subject of documentary features, short films and stage musicals. Now, Bob Marley’s music is about to get the cinematic treatment. According to reports out of Hollywood, Kenya Barris (the maverick behind TV’s Black-ish and the 2017 big-screen comedy Girls Trip) is gearing up to do a film based on Marley’s songs. Cedella Marley has signed on to co-produce the project. Andrea Milcro of Fox Animation, one of the film company’s set to bring the idea to life, says, “We not only have the opportunity to build new relationships for the studio, but we get to tell a story inspired by the music of Bob Marley, one of the greatest music legends of our time.” Universal Music Group’s Polygram Entertainment is also attached to the project.

KELLY PRICE IN J’CA: The R&B diva pays tribute to Whitney, recaps her journey at Red Rose for Gregory

MISS MELODY: Price brought her signature mix of powerhouse vocals and testimony to the mainstage.

“I loved her for being honest with me,” Kelly Price said on-stage at Jamaica College last Wednesday night, paying tribute to her late R&B sister and good friend Whitney Houston. “She gave me great personal advice about my career and about life. And in spite of all the things that she went through there will never be another like her.”

Price’s reflection on her close friendship with Houston and the good times that they shared came during an electrifying performance at Red Rose for Gregory, before a packed house – red-and-white-clad couples, music lovers and other patrons basking in the great vibes, on the occasion of Valentine’s Day.

The six-time Grammy-nominated songstress, sporting a black form-fitting number and rocking divalicious curls, promised to take the patrons on a journey reflecting her eventful career – from the late 90s when record execs and other detractors told her she was “too fat, too Black and too loud” to have a successful career to the height of the 2000s when she did her own smash rendition of Shirley Murdock’s “As We Lay.”

For close to an hour, Kelly had her audience transfixed with her stagecraft, empowerment pep talks and commentary on everything from body image to self-worth. 

Blessed with lush vocals and a multi-octave range that can raise the roof, Price gave spirited renditions of some of her classic tracks (“It’s My Time”, “You Should’ve Told Me” etc.), snippets of the tracks she penned for P. Diddy, Mase and the Bad Boy family, and “Heartbreak Hotel,” which memorably teamed her with Houston and Faith Evans.

But arguably the biggest hit of Price’s career is the “Friend of Mine” remix featuring Ron Isley and R. Kelly. As expected the audience sang along word for word, and Price (who was ably assisted by her disc jock DJ Jermaine) brought her performance to a triumphant close.

Red Rose for Gregory was co-headlined by Freddie McGregor, who delivered the big hits of his illustrious career and a Dennis Brown tribute to the euphoric delight of his on-their-feet fans. Short Boss (at right) gave a short-and-spicy set earlier in the night, as did Robert Minott and St. Ann-based rising star Kaydeno. 

There were no words to describe the pitch-perfect showcase delivered by Pat Edwards, Karen Smith and Gem Myers (who go by Pakage). They brought the house down with pristine three-part harmonies, delving into a suite of disco/Motown jams and classic anthems that whetted appetites for the feast that was to come.

NEWS & NOTES: Sagicor Sigma Run rakes in $50M + Small businesses to benefit from J’ca Business Fund grants + Dr. Janet Dyer appointed HEART Trust/NTA Managing Director

MONEY WELL SPENT: More than 25,000 participants took to the streets of New Kingston on Sunday morning to support the 2018 renewal of the Sagicor Sigma Run, now in its seventh year. The event, which drew endorsements from everyone, including PM Andrew Holness, health minister Dr. Christopher Tufton, Sagicor's Chris Zacca and ambassadors Davina Bennett, Patrice White and Usain Bolt, raised a whopping $50 million. The proceeds will be donated to the Spanish Town Hospital’s Neo-Natal Unit and St. Christopher’s School for the Deaf. In the words of PM Holness, the record-setting charity event remains “a great run for a great cause.” Ann-Marie Finegan, 26, and 38-year-old Ryon Chambers emerged winners of the 5K road race. 

SUPPLY & DEMAND: The Jamaica Business Fund (JBF) has announced the impending launch of the third cycle of supply chain grants to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises. The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) has oversight responsibility for this J$600M fund. The grants will serve as investment into Jamaican enterprises to boost their competitiveness. The DBJ predicts that through these investments, the SME sector will become more productive, resulting in increased export sales and employment, as well as growth in import substitution and other business-related activities. Entrepreneurs can get additional information at

WOMAN ON TOP: Effective Feb. 1, Dr. Janet Dyer is the new Managing Director of the HEART Trust/NTA. Her long association with the agency spans over three decades, commencing with her stint as a trainee at the Runaway Bay academy in 1986. Dr. Dyer is also a former Director/Principal of the St. Ann-based institution and has held other senior management positions at HEART. Prior to her new appointment, she’d been Acting Managing Director since November 2017. An alumna of St. Elizabeth Technical, Dr. Dyer holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Hotel & Tourism Management from Washington International University and an MBA and a BSc from Nova South Eastern University.

Monday, 19 February 2018

ON THE SCENE: Naomi works the stage at Soul Rebel 73 + Davina stuns at RJR/Gleaner Gala; PM Holness gets the youth vote, and more

FLY GIRL: Feb. 6, St. Andrew. Gospel and reggae-pop songstress Naomi Cowan delivers the goods while giving a main-stage performance at Soul Rebel 73, the 2018 Bob Marley b’day celebrations at 56 Hope Road. Protoje and a host of rising reggae ambassadors also graced the stage. (Photo: Sleek)

TALK UP YOUT’: Feb. 6, St. Andrew. Ever giving a voice to the nation’s youngsters, emcee Emprezz Golding gave this lad some shine as she carried out hosting duties at Soul Rebel 73, which, as expected, drew a mammoth crowd to the grounds of the Hope Road-based Bob Marley Museum. (Photo: Sleek)

COUCH THERAPY: Feb. 13, Kingston. Prof. Gordon Shirley cuts a dashing figure in his strong suit, as he sits down with hostess Dahlia Harris, moments after being named Man of the Year at the RJR/Gleaner Honour Awards Gala inside the Grand Jamaica Suite of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Tuesday. Prof. Shirley, an esteemed public servant, is currently head of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ). (Photo: Sleek)

TABLE FOR TWO: Feb. 13, Kingston. Two of this year’s distinguished honorees – a dapper Dr. Christopher Tufton (Health & Wellness) and a ravishing Miss Jamaica Universe Davina Bennett (Arts & Culture) – strike a pose for the shutterbugs at Tuesday’s RJR/Gleaner Honour Awards Gala at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. (Photo: Skkan Media)

VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Feb. 13, St. Andrew. Last week’s media appreciation party, A Taste of Jamaica, offered PM Andrew Holness yet another opportunity to bond with his young supporters. Out in their numbers at the Jamaica House-hosted event, they flocked to the PM who obviously loved the company. (Photo: Sleek)

GIRL OF THE MOMENT: Singer-actress Shanique Brown talks balance, breakout stardom and her career game plan

BRINGING IT: "I'm taking my time to get it right," Brown says of the EP she has planned for 2018.

“I’M a full-time performer,” declares Shanique Brown, explaining the delicate balancing act that now forms the crux of her life in the arts. The twenty-something star, who has been winning fans as GiRL (her soulful alter ego), has joined the ensemble cast of DMH Productions’ Dat a Gwaan Jamaica Remix, which plays to her strengths as a songstress, actress and budding comedienne.

She shines among her castmates in the hit comedy revue, taking on roles that range from a ghetto-fabulous vendor to a delinquent tenant dodging her landlord to Commissioner-of-Police hopeful Novlette Grant.

Fresh out of Ardenne High, theatre quickly became Brown’s firm base but she’s always had music in her heart. So before long, while taking acting jobs, she was appearing on the Kingston live music scene, recording singles like the infectious jam “Fly” (with Dat a Gwaan Jamaica costar Kadeem ‘Kenzic’ Wilson) and teaming up with producers for her forthcoming EP and her first full-length album.

“It’s been an interesting journey,” she says in a masterpiece of understatement, moments after wrapping another performance at the Phoenix Theatre. A few feet away, her costars are chatting with patrons, who seem to have enjoyed the show immensely. “That’s what it is for me – a journey. It’s a lot of work; it gets hard, but I prepare. And I like a challenge.” It shows. Attempting to break into the music mainstream demands more than a gorgeous voice and a pretty face. It takes real resilience. But, as Brown says, she is prepared.

In addition to doing more stage work this year, she wants to put out her debut EP by the time summer arrives. “I’m taking my time to get it right. I’m not making any promises as to the release date, but the fans will enjoy it,” she offers. “I’ve learned from the past singles I’ve released and how people have responded because I want to perfect the others that I have coming out.” 

As if that weren’t enough, Brown takes pleasure in rekindling her passion for film work. She has completed two screen projects due for release in 2018 – including a short titled The City of Man. For Brown, what’s happening in her career now is a nice transition from 2017, when she appeared in Michelle Serieux’s Sugar and Kurt Wright’s Origins – both of which earned critical acclaim locally and regionally, thanks to the Propella initiative. 

As for taking a turn behind the camera as a filmmaker, that might happen eventually, but as things currently stand, Brown’s plate is more than full. “I really want to finish my EP and get it perfect,” says the soft-spoken and chocolate-hued starlet, who sat on a panel at the recent Voice of a Woman Festival, honouring entertainment Grace Jones and Jamaican women making great strides in the arts. “Oh, and I want to put on five more pounds.”

THE BEAUTY PAGE: Sherone Simpson “enjoying” first-time motherhood + ‘Top Model’ promises a “captivating” Season 4 + Stephanie’s fierce new look

Sherone’s Happy New Life!
The radiant glow of motherhood is not the only things that’s different about Sherone Simpson. The first-time mommy says these days there’s extra pep in her step and lots of energy to spare, thanks to the new love of her life – infant daughter, Leanna. “I am really enjoying motherhood. I have an extra drive now,” the Olympian and ace sprinter recently told an interviewer, as she made her long-awaited return to the track. “When I go out in the mornings, I think about Leanna. Coming here competing, Leanna is on my mid. She gives me that drive in everything that I am doing. She is my extra motivation.” Simpson, currently in her 30s, is quick to admit that it’s not a one-woman show when it comes to raising her daughter and teaching her about the birds and the bees. “I have a very good support system, and I have to give thanks. I have my mother, my fiancé, my sister and I have a very good nanny.” When it comes to juggling her passion for the track with quality time for parenting and other commitments, Simpson says, “You just have to plan ahead.”

Viewing Pleasure!
“It’s been a tremendous challenge. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the Caribbean people and our loyal viewers,” says head judge and executive producer Wendy Fitzwilliam, dishing about the new season of Caribbean’s Next Top Model. Now entering its fourth cycle, the televised reality series had most of its upcoming episodes shot on location in Jamaica, home of Season 3 champ, Shanique Simms, pictured above with Fitzwilliam (right), Melia Braco Hotel’s Dimitris Kosvogiannis and Kim Lee, representing media partners and broadcast station, Flow. “We’re delighted to be on board once again for the fourth season of [Top Model], which continues to draw bigger and bigger audiences as a platform for young Caribbean women to develop careers in the fashion industry,” says Garry Sinclair, President of Flow/C&W Communications Caribbean. “Viewers are in for another captivating season.” Season 4 episodes air on Flow 1, Wednesdays at 9pm.

Her style, her way!
We are loving Stephanie’s long, shoulder-length 'mane' game. The songbird and fierce stylista worked the look while attending the recent media launch party to support her alma mater Ashé as they jump-started their 25th anniversary celebrations in Kingston. Definitely one of the sharpest looks in this head-turning diva’s lookbook.

Friday, 16 February 2018

DANGER & DESIRE: Fifty Shades climaxes with a sexy-spiky valentine for the fans

MR. & MRS. GREY: The sizzling Dornan-Johnson chemistry is one of the film's highlights.

THE course of true love never does smooth. For passionate lovebirds Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), the toughest hurdle of their lives together appears as soon as they become newlyweds. Their honeymoon is cut short.

Ana’s vengeful old boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) wants his pound of flesh and is going to extreme lengths to make life miserable for the couple. When he’s not breaking into Christian’s office to steal files and leave a fire in his wake, he’s attempting to kidnap Ana while Christian is away on business in New York. Luckily, Husband long insisted on 24-hour bodyguard protection for Wife, and even though Ana complains that she feels like a caged animal, she knows it’s for her own good.

But the terror is far from over, as Jack has an old score to settle. He plots and executes a kidnap-for-ransom that’s done so swiftly it catches everyone off guard.

That’s the basic premise of Fifty Shades Freed: The Final Chapter, the curtain-closing instalment of the cinematic franchise based on EL James’ worldwide bestsellers. Directed by James Foley (with screenplay by Niall Leonard), the near 110-miute film is a hugely entertaining affair that, as expected, has lots of soapy gloss and is thin on the meat. But, at its core, it’s a valentine to the fans who fell in love with Ana and Christian and can’t let them go.

Marcia Gay Harden (as Christian’s mom, Grace), Luke Grimes (as brother Elliott), Eloise Mumford (as Elliott’s betrothed Kate) and Rita Ora (as their baby sis Mia) round out the main cast.

Fifty Shades Freed is the most intense and dramatic of the three films. But the diehards come to Fifty Shades for the spice and the erotica, and they don’t leave disappointed. The love scenes sizzle and the dominant-submissive dynamic is played up to the hilt. 

But there’s more to life than hot sex, and as such we get a glimpse at the deep-seated yearnings and vulnerabilities of these two people who are devoted to each other but very much want to hold on to their individual identities – especially Ana who clings to her fiction-editor job at Seattle Independent Press when Christian’s attention becomes overwhelming. 

Even so, their chemistry is unmistakable (Dornan and Johnson seem ideally cast), and it’s one of the film’s strongest assets. They make love, they bask in each other’s company. Naturally, the ride gets bumpy. They don’t see eye-to-eye on issues like having children and the responsibilities that parenthood will bring. But they prove that their solid bond can survive anything – especially in a time of life-and-death crisis. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Monday, 12 February 2018

PASSION IN MOTION: Danceworks 22 reflects strong commitment to diversity and innovative choreography

BIG FINISH: The show's best pieces were feats of great energy and strong imagery.

AFTER more than two decades, the School of Dance’s annual Danceworks recital continues to deliver the joy, vim and vigour that tends to characterize the best dance shows. It allows the school’s faculty and outstanding year one to four students to collaborate in producing a body of work often heightened by innovative and outside-the-box choreography, hyperkinetic energy and no shortage of cool concepts. The 2018 presentation was no different. Thursday’s opening night at the Bert Rose Studio Theatre delivered 10 pieces – a solid, diverse mix.

Inspired by the perpetual struggles of Haitian women at home, Oniel Pryce conjured up a haunting meditation on resilience and survival with a remount of 2010’s “Cenotaph”. Driven by a plaintive score featuring poetess Nikki Giovanni, Jocelyn Pook and Sweet Honey in the Rock, the piece saw its quartet of black-clad female dancers offering uniformed movements and arresting formations, as they made ample use of stage space.

As history will attest, Haitians (women, men and children) face great poverty and exploitation, often due to circumstances beyond their control. But Pryce’s piece succeeds beautifully in showing how resistance and indomitable human spirit keep them fighting.

“Ital Levity” was another highlight. Inventively created poet-at-heart Neila Ebanks, this nostalgic fusion of verse and verve and easy-skankin’ vibes follows a bunch of soul rebels movin’ and groovin’ with wild abandon (the waistline put to work) to the rhythmic enticement of a Sly & Robbie bassline. Not even the crack of the whip can deter these 12 revellers who are so entranced, so overcome by desire, that they cannot see the quagmire opening up below their feet.

Liane Williams’ striking and primal “Bitta Blood” tackled similar themes but with a fast-paced sequence of movement featuring “famished” red-clad dancers putting in work to the boom and commanding bass of Junior Gong. De’Andrea Dwyer opened the piece with a strong solo (with music by Lauryn Hill), setting up a stunning contrast that spoke volumes of the choreographer’s feel for diversity and texture.

Elsewhere on the programme were minor triumphs like Jessica Shaw’s “Touchdown,” choreography driven by a slice of “big bad soca”. The trio of Shereda McEwan, DaShaun Prince and Annesa Shaw fused soca, dancehall and afrobeat for their spirited offering “DHQ” while Dadriel Bent opted for a slightly futuristic route with “Just Go!” as opposed to Orville McFarlane’s “Taciturn” which, as its name suggests, aimed for a rare blend of subtle and sublime.

Arsenio Andrade, a veteran of the Afro-Caribbean tradition, opted for a remount of his visually strong 1999 work “Congo Laye”. Lavish, scene-stealing costumes eclipsed the movement in Paul Newman’s grand high-energy showcase “Moving Forward Together.” Shanelle Buchanan’s “Fear Not” stood out from the pack with a majestic gospel score, exquisite purple costumes and all-female cast that brought the piece to rousing life with immense conviction.

NEWS FEED: Former Attorney General AJ Nicholson cautions PM Holness + Economy inches from “stable” to “positive” + NIDS begins pilot phase next January

POWER PLAY: In the wake of the controversial appointment of Bryan Sykes to the role of Jamaica’s new Chief Justice, former Attorney General A.J. Nicholson has strong words of caution for PM Andrew Holness. “As has been patiently pointed out, such an appointment severely trespasses upon the twin anchor on which the judiciary rests in a free and democratic society: security of tenure and independence,” Nicholson says. He hastens to emphasize that Holness has been “in breach” of legal and constitutional principles before, recalling the PM’s insistence that would-be senators sign undated letters of resignation, which “merely stipulated loyalty to him than to the Constitution. According to the former Attorney General, Holness is treading on dangerous ground. “Careful, Mr., Prime Minister!” he warns. “This business of being from a different age with a different way of thinking can easily ripen into a route to authoritarianism.” 

GOOD SIGN: Thanks to “macro-economic improvements” (in the words of Finance & Planning minister Audley Shaw), Jamaica’s economy has moved from “stable” to “positive,” according to the Ritch Ratings agency. Shaw chalks up this heartening turn of events to recent reduction in unemployment (10.3%, a 10-year low); stabilization of the Jamaican dollar; growth in the tourism and business process outsourcing industries; and a construction industry that is on the upswing. “We are moving in a very aggressive way to deal with all the fundamental issues that collectively militate against business and consumer confidence and investments and, by extension, growth,” says Shaw, speaking at an EU/Caribbean Investment Facility signing ceremony on February 1. “We have to make sure that we do the necessary things to make our country more appropriately aligned to global standards.” 

> Sound byte! 
“We have a large number of young persons who have no identification. Not having an ID puts you at a disadvantage. It stops you from having opportunities. This national ID is going to address that type of challenge that we now have within our country.” – Chief Technical Director at the OPM, Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart, at a recent town hall meeting about the National Identification System (NIDS), slated to commence its pilot project phase in January 2019

ON THE RECORD: Singer-songwriter Jahiti talks about recording Garvey’s “Keep Cool”, empowerment and philosophy

THE STRONG ONE: "Music is necessary for healing and to connect to a higher power," says Jahiti.

WHEN Jahiti was gearing up to re-release his debut album, Fish Bowl, in 2010, he knew he had to include among the new tracks “Keep Cool,” written by Marcus Mosiah Garvey while imprisoned in the United States in the 1920s. Jahiti, a Bronx-by-way-of-Kingston native gave a splendid rendition of the song at Sunday’s second leg of Grounation 2018 at the Institute of Jamaica, during a presentation by Steven Golding, who first told Jahiti about the lyrics written by Garvey, a prolific poet and songwriter in his day. TALLAWAH spoke with the 42-year-old indie artist (who has released three albums to date) about the revered Black icon and his timeless, life-changing messages. 

TALLAWAH: You must consider it a great honour to have recorded a song based on lyrics penned by none other than Marcus Mosiah Garvey. 
Jahiti: I think the best part for me was never knowing that there were songs written by Garvey. He never sang it, but he wrote the words. So I never saw a music sheet. I just came up with some chords on the guitar and we took it from there. 

TALLAWAH: How did you get in contact with Steven Golding? 
Jahiti: I’ve known him for years, from we were kids, but we never actually worked together until we were both in the UNIA. So we reconnected when he was living in New York for a little bit. I would attend UNIA conferences and events, and one day he told me about this song that Garvey wrote. 

TALLAWAH: Who is Jahiti? How do you define yourself as an artist? 
Jahiti: I’m a social scientist who writes lyrics and puts some chords to it on my guitar. So I am not a singer. I use my art and music to let people know they are not alone. We all share together. Music is necessary for healing and to connect to a higher power. 

TALLAWAH: Another song you performed earlier, “Advance,” is also very Garvey-esque in its lyrics and empowerment message. 
Jahiti: That song is the Universal Ethiopian Anthem, written by Ford and Burrell. And it does have a powerful message. What I feel it charges me with is a level of responsibility, telling people to advance to their victory. I feel big inside. 

TALLAWAH: What’s next for you? 
Jahiti: I want to put a pause on performing and head back into the studio to do some recording. I want to get back to that process of writing and recording and then taking the songs somewhere. I’ll probably do more singles instead, because sometimes the album is not really worth it. It soon becomes free. And I’m reading a lot more. I’m in the time of my life now where I want to read books that were written over 100 years ago. What did our ancestors know? What were the building blocks to creating a life? 

TALLAWAH: Deep stuff. Which brings us back to Garvey. What would you say is his true legacy? 
Jahiti: Garvey’s true legacy is just a powerful thing. It doesn’t matter stage of life you’re at, he’s a constant reminder of the human spirit. I’m gonna accomplish something. Be an example. Stand up and fight. That’s what he represented.