Blogs and Mirrors| a Review

Mirror Mirror on the Blog?

Last weekend I watched Michael Holgate’s new production Blogs and Mirrors at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts. The cast comprised members of the University Players and the Ashe Company, starring Toni “Bella” Blair (of Youtube fame) and Rudolph Tomlinson. Supporting cast members included Desmond Dennis, Tiffany Thompson and Tiffany Smith.

Credt: nickphotoworks
Ebony (Toni Blair) and her monkeys.

Spiraling Plot

The musical stumbles through the lives of four characters: Ebony who has recently inherited her father’s company; Phil, her love interest; June who has fallen in love with a boy she met online; and Chidi, the boy online. The much-neglected plot spirals around underhandedness, deceit and the power of believing in yourself. Delivered spoken-word style, Holgate’s good intentions are received but he falls into the trap of telling instead of showing.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
-Anton Chekhov

Wit vs Creativity

There was a smattering of well-delivered punchlines, and what it lacked in creativity the script certainly made up in wit. I found that the cast handled humour more believably than the serious issues. Jamaicans (maybe all theatre goers?) have a tendency to laugh when they feel awkward or embarrassed and the characters actually pointed this out. But I think some entertainment value was lost by erring on the side of too serious. I got the point, but maybe there was another way he could have brought across the same ideas with less proselytizing.

Highs and Lows

Thompson’s voice continues to inspire awe in her sassy rendition of the Magic Mirror; Bernard continues to play the mustache-twirling villain with masterful aplomb; and the monkeys’ moves were executed with laudable technique. But June’s character was incredibly annoying; Ebony and Phil’s romance has very little believability; and Blair’s delivery of Ebony lacked the feeling that could have brought her character to life.

Throughout the musical I kept losing touch with the central story, caught adrift in side stories that did little or nothing to move the central plot forward. But the original songs and dances were entertaining (if sometimes too long) and inspiring.

Pet Peeves

I have my own personal pet peeves. How come every time the main character is a girl the plot  dissolves into a sappy romance? Just once I would like to see a play where the happy ending does not involve the lead girl finding the man of her dreams.

Additionally (and this is a personal point) the second half took a religious turn that left me feeling somewhat unsettled. When I go to the theatre I don’t expect to find Jesus. I don’t have a problem with him being there, but it’s a bit like walking in on someone in the bathroom (the awkward kind of surprising).

Overall I’d give Blogs and Mirrors 4/10. It was entertaining enough, but there was really no “wow” factor.

RELEASE at Philip Sherlock {13.2.14}

On Thursday evening I went to see the QUILT production RELEASE at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts. Since its conception, QUILT has gathered a steady fan base among students of the University of the West Indies and the wider theatre community with its dedication to producing innovative works of performance art. The company is celebrating their fourth anniversary amidst preparations to participate in a UK based international performing arts competition.

The QUILT version of theatre is not any one thread of drama, dance, song or film. Instead the company weaves a tapestry of all four elements to create its trademark patchwork of expressively dynamic pieces.

The first half of the show was layered beautifully with lamentations of colonial heritage and socio-cultural injustices. Noises in my Blood, choreographed by Rayon Mclean and led by Lemar Archer and Tiffany Thompson, explored the denial and eventual acceptance of one young man’s heritage.

In this performance, the inventive use of breath and energy reinforced the themes of fear and powerlessness and was a testament to artistic director Rayon Mclean’s credibility as a director/choreographer.

In Reflections of Red – the blend of a QUILT staple piece with poetry by Jean Small – the veteran poet admittedly lost me along her beleaguered battle for the life of her son. The connection between the Small and the prop – a pair of khaki pants – did not convey the emotion of the poem and though the choir started out with incredibly passionate voices, I felt that the power of this enactment dissipated as it developed.

The second half of the show delved into contemporary commentary, beginning with the short play Vessel, written and directed by Multimedia and Film Director Maya Wilkinson and featuring Ramone Gordon and Kalia Ellis.

Vessel is noteworthy for its abruptly disturbing journey through the mind of a mother facing post-partum psychosis. The stark set design and use of movement and lighting carried this piece far above its compelling dialogue into the realm of haunting surrealism. Ellis must be commended for tackling the role of Karen so thoroughly and with unabashed, unsettling detail.

Loversation followed, opening with a close-up video of hands and lips and bare skin. The first movement, a duet between Roxan Webber and Ramone Gordon, had moments of exciting choreography but ultimately fell flat from the lack of connection between Gordon and Webber.

The second movement picked up with alacrity as a duet between Odain Murray and Jasmine Taylor that positively sparked with chemistry. The duo moved seamlessly through costume changes and communicated with the audience and each other a tension and frustration that were almost palpable.

For me, the most compelling number of the evening was Section Two of Open Closed Doors which, in a style reminiscent of For Coloured Girls, explored the lives of women who have been used by the men who claimed to love them.

QUILT has proven their dedication to avant-garde theatre by not shying away from the gritty themes of sex-selling, unsatisfying marriages and domestic slavery. The act was directed by Rayon McLean and featured Kyesha Randall, Kalia Ellis, Joylene Alexander, Patrice Anderson, Soneisha McKenzie and Tiffany Thompson.

The bitter soliloquies were peppered with words that punctuated like knife points. Stage direction was never more relevant than the apparent confinement of each actor to chalk outlines of themselves – not to be breached until they can close their open doors. The drama climaxed when the actors stepped defiantly outside their crudely drawn lines, but culminated rather darkly and unpleasantly true to life when one actor reopened her door to the same betrayal.

QUILT has promised to go where no performing arts company has gone before and certainly I have never attended a theatrical production where the audience was more engaged, more in tune with the goings on of the stage. QUILT demands attention remorselessly, and seizes it with fervour.

The nature of the pieces delivered in RELEASE inevitably makes this easier; controversial topics will always stir an audience’s blood. Companies tend not to rely heavily on this kind of contentious camaraderie but QUILT has built an entire show around passion – the good kind and the bad. They’ve tapped into the exuberance at the heart of the Jamaican spirit to fuel their climb to further heights of glory.

Bricolage 7: a Reflection

Sunday evening was my company’s dance show. I’m sorry you missed it, but I did warn you.

The journey to staging the seventh installation of Bricolage was a special one. I had only just joined arabesK Dance Collective around March this year whereas most of the members had been there for a while. I jumped straight into learning choreography and enjoyed meeting the multitude of new friends. There is something to be said for finding the right fit with a dance company, like finding the right fit with jazz shoes: when it’s good, it’s great.

We spent the ensuing months getting to know choreography and each other, coping with our crazy/wonderful artistic director’s tendency to start and finish a dance in the same day, learning our strengths, and shoring up our weaknesses. It was a work-in-progress, and we grew together.

Time passed. Issues cropped up and were dealt with, or fretted over. We cried, we laughed, we learned to breathe. We made sacrifices and in between we found moments to shine, feeding off each others’ energy through the sweat and frustration. It is humbling and gratifying to be a part of this close-knit bunch of wildly different people, all here for various reasons, but who are all determined to show up and try.

Our once a week rehearsals weren’t ideal, but we played the hand we were given without losing. Time not spent rehearsing was spent bonding, or in deep discussion about some aspect of performance. It was always time well spent.

So of course our production, with all its flaws and foibles, was a crowning achievement. And as our artistic director beamed with bashful pride in the heat of the stage lights, I reflected that we had really struggled though challenges and broken out of the confines of our day-to-day existence to give this moment of our lives to this bricolage. Her bricolage. Our bricolage.

And I’m looking forward to doing it all again.

For those who like dance (and those who like me): Bricolage 7

For all you patrons of the arts out there who happen to be in Kingston – or who will happen to be in Kingston in November – arabesK Dance Collective will be hosting their season on Sunday, November 17 at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts (UWI, Mona) at 6PM.

It is aptly titled Bricolage (from the French le bricolage) which means: 

Bricolage (n): the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process

It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. Kyisha Patterson (artistic director) is a brilliantly inventive choreographer, and she constantly pushes her dancers beyond our boundaries. The result is a collection of choreographic works of unparalleled spirit and touching emotion.

I know November is the month of dance seasons, but all the other shows cost more. Really, you’d be saving a fortune just coming to see us dance. Because of course you were already planning to support the Arts. Weren’t you?

If you weren’t, come anyway.

Bricolage 7

  • Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts
  • Sunday, November 17
  • 6 PM
  • $1000 per ticket

Taboo at the Sherlock

Despite the limits of my university student wallet, I managed to indulge in a bit of culture by going to see Keiran King’s new play Taboo at Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts. (Right down the road from my hall of residence).

Based on the posters I was prepared for nudity, no PG-themes and . . . sex? (No idea). My friend M had mentioned an unexpected twist. I still don’t know what she was talking about. I saw that “twist” coming a mile away; the build-up just would not be ignored.

The play delivered.

It was foul-mouthed and witty, and yes, we got to see Yendi’s new-baby boobs. But aside from all that, Taboo struck home on a number of points. The lead character – William, played by King – is a disillusioned thirty year old writer who finds himself at the end of his drawn-out adolescence without having achieved any of his dreams. His relationship with his wife is on the rocks, and he finds solace only in his sister’s affection.

It’s not only the final denouement that is shockingly indelicate. The play talks about a lot of issues that are hushed up and overlooked, flinging itself out of the sphere of marital problems (a touchy topic in and of itself) into the larger closeted saga of family secrets, and the realities of life and adulthood.

The dialogue was fantastic. The play is all about double entendres and dirty puns, with a whole lot of self-deprecating humour. I was struck by how unafraid they were to criticize and call Jamaica out on all the crap that you only ever hear about when you complain to your friends. King in particular complains about how hard it is to be an author in Jamaica in a five minute rant that had me saying ‘Amen!’ aloud in the theatre. All his rants are entertaining. I remember spending a lot of time thinking ‘He talks like me.

The word refreshing is often over-used in these instances, but Taboo was like a tall glass of (Long Island) iced tea on a hot Kingston afternoon. Go watch it.

Running for the month of August. Tickets are $1500. Two-for-one on Tuesdays at 8.


Read the Gleaner review here! The Observer was way too mean. 

What rhymes with passion?

Book stores are wonderful, inspiring places. And theatres. Dark theatres filled with audiences and the promise of a good show.

Idk, I got it from Google

Book stores filled with undiscovered worlds, rows and rows of them, just waiting to be opened. There is beauty there, in the shadows and the alcoves and the corners.

Clothing stores are disheartening, a balloon that floats away. Soggy cereal. Lukewarm tea. The beauty is skin deep, tied up in cotton blends and washable colours. Beauty that bleeds and runs. Beauty that bleaches if you leave it in the sun too long.

A book left in the sun too long will spark. The words will catch fire, sear your soul.

Idk, I got it from Google

But don’t be silly. A theatre will never be left in the sun too long.


Medical school is not all fun and games. But we have fun. And we play games.

i fi i is a statement of human character and proof that our choices, whether good or bad, will ultimately define our destiny.

On Friday night I saw my class production “i fi i“. Smoker (what we affectionately call such productions) is an annual tradition of the third year medical class. It was at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts on the UWI campus in Mona and today, Sunday, will be the final two performances. But don’t bother trying to get tickets, because they’ve been sold out for at least a week.

It seems impossible to give  a thorough review without having spoilers abound, but I shall try anyway.

This original work is about a deported Jamaican, Julian, who returns home to find his community in the tight fist of a ruthless MP, Mrs. Anderson who controls her constituents indirectly through bad man, Tony. Julian, filled with righteous fury, sets out to rid the community of the evil forces – a task which is made more difficult when Julian gets a little too close to the seat of corruption. Ultimately, i fi i chronicles the moral decline of man. It shows us, through timeless and cleverly written examples, just how bad things can get when it is every man for himself.

During the show, I very much enjoyed the supporting cast whose performances shone throughout the play. I was struck, time and time again, at how much characters with minor roles and little to no dialogue can flesh out a scene. The performances of Jazz and Blues, Stacy, Ms. Gibbs, and Bandulu were subtle, like good seasoning, their mere presence adding depth and breadth and believability that made the play come alive.

Admittedly, I was not as enthralled with the Beggar Man as the rest of the audience. I felt that his character was a bit too much, at times overshadowing the rest of the cast, but I can’t deny that he was ably played by Director Rani Sittol. Kind of like Jim Carrey, his over-the-top acting is tolerable rather than irritating, and leaves you wondering, what’s so important about this Beggar Man?

I though the main cast left much to be desired – Theopholus Nelson, Gizelle Jackson and Alecia Hamilton didn’t quite thrill me in their roles as Julian, Mrs. Anderson and Zoe respectively. Julian’s second-hand British accent quickly became annoying, though the rest of the audience continued to find it amusing. His alleged fury with the state of his community was reduced to a farce – all bluster and very little action. Nelson’s Julian was rather less than the man he was trying to be.

Conversely, Doneilo Thomas played a very believable Tony and Gavin Austin delivered an admirable performance as the almost-too-good-to-be-real Steven. The difference between the acting styles of Nelson, Thomas and Austin is, once again, subtlety. Thomas keeps a steady undercurrent of the anger and hatred that embody Tony’s character while Austin keeps Steven just this side of  being ridiculously morally upstanding with a charming naivete.

However, Mrs. Anderson falls short of Lady Macbethian villainy. She reminded me too strongly of a woman trying to fit in with a man’s world. The constant presence of her cigar is a manifestation of this. A female villain must be feminine, otherwise the audience will automatically expect her downfall precisely because she does not fit into their expectations of a woman. Stacey embodies this quality – using her femininity to control and conspire. Treena Bailey does an impressive job of getting the audience to hate her character, even while she entertains them. Alecia Hamilton as Zoe, on the other hand, doesn’t do justice to the character of the ghetto girl trying to get out with education. I felt like her character, on a whole, was ineffective, but this may be a problem of the script as well as the acting.

For the most part I liked the dialogue. There were enough hidden messages to delight the medical students in the audience, and the writer, Kadeem Knight, made good use of the current slang to make his characters sound snappy and clever. This is a particularly commendable effort in a country where what is “cool” changes as often as the weather. The play also features an original score, and while the chorus delivered with every performance, Bailey’s solo in the second act was a bit of a disappointment (despite the ambitious lyrics of “love you like a surgeon”).

I was also impressed with the technical aspects of the show – the set design, and smoothness of scene changes.

I have saved the best for last in my critique of the dances. The most unfortunate thing about the dances in this play is that there were only two of them. Choreographers Deandra Thomas and Kristen Facey outdid themselves with the modern and dancehall pieces, playing to the strengths of their dancers but sacrificing none of the creativity. For the dances alone, I would watch this play again and again. But then I am biased to that particular branch of the performing arts.

Delivered by an amateur cast and crew, my expectations of Smoker 2012 were not very high. But what i fi i lacks in expertise, it makes up for in heart. The presentation may not be flawless, but it is certainly spirited, and if you don’t go into the theatre expecting a world-class production then I can guarantee you will have an enjoyable experience.


{21} Doctors sing and dance, too.

The medical class at the University of the West Indies puts on an annual fundraisng theatrical production called Smoker. I’ve never been to one, but from what I hear the response is par for the course with theatre: kind of a big deal for some, negligible for others. As for me, it’s theatre: there’s no way this production could pass me by.

Of course, that’s not so easy with me stuck all the way on the second campus while all of the action is going on on the main. Despite the distance, I managed to get elected on the Smoker Committee – as Script Editorial Chair! Communicating/coordinating with the main campus is a pain at best, but now that they’ve gone and split my post between myself and the runner up, I’m given to wonder if they won’t start to bypass my input altogether. Which would suck. A lot. Especially as I’m determined to contribute in some (major) way to this thing.

So for the time being I’m just waiting. Our production won’t happen for another year or so, since the class ahead of us has just had their weekend. I’m all geared up for it, and so impatient to start planning, but everyone around me is kind of lukewarm about the whole thing. I’m being generous. The atmosphere is more like that chilly feeling you get when you dip your toe into an unheated pool. My campus has been really supportive of me, so I won’t complain. And I’m not sure the main campus is any more. . . enthused than we are. I guess it’s up to the committee to inspire the fervour. I just hope they don’t look at me; I’ve got about as much fervour as one of the cadavers downstairs. And about as much chance of sharing it.

I’ll just sit tight with my red pen and wait to do what I do best. Hopefully the ink won’t dry out before I’m called to duty.