Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Classic play enjoys new life in London

Theatre season begins in T&T as...


THE CAST: Raymond Choo Kong with Penelope Spencer, Conrad Parris and Abeo Jackson from the new play, Choo Kong and Penny. —Photo courtesy RCK Productions

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As the season gets on the way in Trinidad and Tobago, a classic play written by a Trinidadian is presently enjoying a favourable run at the Cottesloe Theatre, which is one of the three theatres of the National Theatres in London. Moon On A Rainbow Shawl opened on March 14 and will continue at the venue that features only what are considered to be the best plays and musicals. This version is directed by Michael Buffong who has done extensive work with the Royal Exchange Theatre and also worked in television.

Moon On A Rainbow Shawl was written by Errol John in 1953. He was a playwright as well as an actor. It was the winner of the Observer prize for literature in 1957. The play has been performed by theatre companies throughout the world since 1958 when it was published internationally. One of the most celebrated presentations was delivered in New York in 1962 when James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson were the featured actors and were praised for their respective representations of their characters.

That run received rave reviews from leading critics that led to the play being picked up by production houses throughout the United States, Europe and as far as the Pacific Rim, Australia and New Zealand. Moon On A Rainbow Shawl has also been translated into several languages including German, Sri Lankan, Czech, Japanese and Korean. It has also been performed many times here in T&T. John died in London in 1988.

In his play, John tells the story of Ephraim, a bus driver living in a barrack yard in Port of Spain. He is very unhappy with his life of poverty and struggle that leaves him longing to go away to what he perceives to be merry old England where there is prosperity and snow. His misdirected dreams cause him to distance himself from Rosa, a woman living in the yard who loves Ephraim deeply. The play also explores the lives of fellow yard residents, Sophie and Charlie Adams as well as the landlord, Old Mack.

Back then T&T could not really claim to have a theatre season, so it's almost a fitting tribute that the play is revived in London while our own theatre season begins.

After more than three years offline, the Central Bank Auditorium, Port of Spain is finally available to the theatre community again, offering much improved facilities to thespians and audiences alike. This comes just as the 2012 season opens in earnest with its promise of a number of entertaining productions offering from comedy and musicals to dramas and introspective one-man productions from various production houses.

The first play taking the stage at Central Bank is, Maneater presented by RR Productions and directed by Richard Ragoobarsingh and Debra Boucaud Mason. The play already enjoyed a good run at the Cipriani Labour College Auditorium, Valsayn a few weeks ago. The cast of this very funny play includes, Richard Ragoobarsingh, Aaron Schneider, Corinne Browne, Lesley Ann Lavine, Ria Ali, Carlos Quashie and Debra Boucaud Mason.

Maneater is the story of Ria from Rio Claro who is convicted of killing her husband. She is released from prison and returns to her hometown. Soon after her arrival a series of strange incidents occur in the village and the residents wonder if Ria is the cause.

The men begin to live in fear and they start to take caution against not only Ria, but other women in the area who are either a little strange or have themselves had problems with their own men. Maneater opens at Central Bank on March 22 and runs nightly until the 25.

Raymond Choo Kong Productions brings political bacchanal with lots of laughter to the Naparima Bowl, San Fernando with, Choo Kong and Pennie on March 24 and 25 before going to the National Academy for the Performing Arts on March 30 to run until April 1. This production features Choo Kong alongside Penelope Spencer delivering their interpretation on the nation's political landscape. This is the third installment in the series that began before the 2010 General Elections when the hot topic was Manning and the Prophetess.

Choo Kong is also directing a play titled, Coming Home, which was written by Theresa Awai and is being produced by her TriAlex Theatre Company. The play opening at Queen's Hall, St Ann's on March 29 and runs until April 1 stars Nikki Crosby, Cecilia Salazar, Clifford Learmond and Caroline Taylor alongside Maurice Brash, Chris Smith and Rachel Bascombe-Koranteng. Coming Home tells the story of four siblings battling over their mother's will and end up exposing unpleasant family secrets including one that can cause the loss of everything.

D C Shell Theatre and Crazy Catholic presents Sleeping Beauty and the Trini Prince at Queens Hall over the Easter weekend beginning on April 5 and continuing until Easter Monday on April 9. This comedic musical designed for the entire family is directed by Sheldon Narine and features Dese Simon, Cheldon Knights, Clyne Rodriguez, Darrion Michael Chelsea Marie, Jonathan Serrette, Nola Leacock, Samara Kadir, Nicole Wong Chong, Rebecca Elias, Eclectic Dance Crew and Travis Serrette.