A descent for Dimanche Gras
The catch-phrase for Sunday's night's re-branded Dimanche Gras was "The Evolution Begins". But what audiences got was a devolution of Carnival's signature stage show; and the excuse proffered by National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Allison Demas – that more time was needed – is simply not good enough.
Lacking any framework, the revamped production of Carnival's defining stage performances consisted of a hodgepodge of representative acts, many excellent on their own merit, but, as part of a production, failing to grab and entertain. The persons in charge of the show failed to create a theme which would have made the production coherent. Instead, the assumption seemed to be that the nebulous title "I Am Carnival" would be sufficient onto the night thereof.
Lacking creativity, the Dimanche Gras producers might at least have redeemed themselves by ensuring that the show's mechanics ran smoothly – starting punctually, with minimal transitions between acts, and finishing within a reasonable time-frame. Indeed, one of the main rationales proffered for this drastic change in approach was that the Dimanche Gras was too long and didn't hold the audience's attention. But Sunday's show finished even later than the traditional Dimanche Gras.
The other rationale given was the need to have a production which could be packaged for international audiences. This also was not accomplished. On the night, the TV commentators were painfully unprepared, reading from press release-style scripts to give information about the show. They also spoke over the emcees on stage, hence depriving the audience at home of a crucial aspect of the performances. Even if a DVD could be salvaged by expert editing, the production values were too low for good quality. And the sparse audience present last Sunday was the sharpest and most pertinent critique.
Ms Demas has expressed the hope that, by starting planning for 2014 earlier, they will get it right next year. But the problems with the new format run far deeper than just time management. What the authorities who hired the production team failed to realise is that a background in Carnival band production and fete promotion does not equip an individual to oversee the Dimanche Gras. This is because street theatre is not stage theatre. The genius of masman Peter Minshall lay in his unique ability to marry the two and, at the very least, the production team needed the range of skills associated with both types of theatre, as well as events management expertise.
Sunday night's travesty must not be repeated next year in any form or fashion. The NCC must either return to the traditional Dimanche Gras with a tighter format, or create a new concept which will truly highlight the Carnival over an entertaining three hours.