Sea-blasted driftwood, sand and a half-bottle of rum were the only props employed in the Scarlett Productions presentation of Rum and Coca-Cola, which opened on August 16 at the CLR James Auditorium, Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies, Valsayn.
There was no set change and only two actors on stage throughout the play directed by Louisa Proske who took the work of playwright, Mustapha Matura and attempted a revival so to speak. It was, however, the actors, Llewellyn "Short Pants" MacIntosh and Conrad Parris who really breathed new life into the play, keeping the audience peaked throughout.
Let's be honest, Matura created a masterpiece in Rum and Coca-Cola and there really is not much that a director can add to the work. It's all up to the actors to deliver on the script, which is basically dialogue between the characters, Creator (MacIntosh) and Bird (Parris).
The two succeeded in capturing and holding the attention of the audience from the opening line to the finale, which when it came proved to be a shocker for those who had not seen the play before or were familiar with the plot.
And while the excellence of Parris' performance is no surprise as he is a seasoned actor who always delivers regardless of the genre of the production, Mac Intosh who is a calypsonian with little acting experience must be commended for his performance, which was absolutely flawless. The two were simply the perfect combination and told the story created by Matura as he would want it to be.
Rum and Coca-Cola is the story of a calypsonian known as Creator who had some years before won the Calypso King title three times in succession. Lord Melody singing "Jonah and the Bake" beat him to deny him a fourth straight title and that seemed to affect Creator psychologically. Now a washed up, alcoholic calypsonian, Creator spends his days on the beach trying to compose the perfect calypso that would regain him the title and bring back the glory days he enjoyed during his three-year reign.
Bird is a young man who Creator has taken under his wings and is seeking to mentor as a calypsonian. Bird was a petty thief and pickpocket before hooking up with Creator who he believes is the best calypsonian ever and most knowledgeable of the art form. Creator allows him to collaborate in the composing of "Ruby," the calypso that will do it for them both, but while the elder is completely focused on "Ruby," Bird believes they need to hustle in order to eat.
The hustle is singing for tourists on the beach as well as doing whatever performances they can get at Mano's Bar. Creator bows to Bird and they sing for the tourists performing popular calypsoes of the day like, "Maryann," but their signature song is Lord Invader's, "Rum And Coca-Cola," which is the calypso most of the tourists want to hear.
When they are finished and Bird checks in his hat to see what they were paid it's usually only one dollar, Trinidad and Tobago currency rather than US. Of course Creator always starts to cuss after the "Yankees" as they walk away, but Bird quiets him down.
One night at Mano's Bar, after a performance where Creator made Bird take the lead, their carefree life took a disastrous turn. Bird went off with a young American woman who fancied him and Creator ended up going on the microphone and began to insult Mano whose bouncers then beat up Creator. The calypsonian though an elder held his own and at the end although Creator was a bit banged up, Mano's bar was in shambles.
Now, Creator was always passing on words of wisdom to the young Bird telling him that he should be careful with the tourists, especially the women. Creator's experience was that the women always wanted more than a song and would in the old days invite him to their hotel rooms for him to sing for them, but most times he would end up delivering another kind of performance for which he was sometimes handsomely rewarded.
He also told the young man that the women would always promise to send for him to join them in America, England or Europe wherever they were from, but once they left to return to their respective countries he never heard from them again.
Creator also told Bird that once you are a calypsonian, "a dog better than you" as far as society was concerned. Bird was surprised when he found out that Creator had performed at the Governor's House and asked how that happened. Creator said that the Governor had requested his presence as he was the Calypso King, but there was a bit of a scare because one of his songs was very smutty and he was warned not to sing it. The Governor, however, had heard the song and personally requested it.
"When all dem white people see the Governor ask for calypso they follow him and is then they start to go to the tent," Creator said.
When Bird returns from a wild night with his American fling he finds a battered and bruised Creator. He admonishes him for probably making them lose their gigs at Mano's, but tells his mentor that the young lady was impressed by their performance and is willing to assist them in taking things to another level. Bird was thinking that they could finish "Ruby" and he could compete in the Calypso King competition singing it.
Creator says no way, because there is no way that "Ruby" could beat anything Melody comes with. After a back and forth argument, Bird goes off to meet the young lady and you will have to go see the play to find out what happens next. See Page 6