Playwright explores Caribbean heritage in `Remembrance'

An internationally renowned Guyanese playwright is on Island directing a play written by Nobel prize winning writer Derek Walcott.

The play "Remembrance'' -- sponsored by the West Indian Association -- was written by St.


An internationally renowned Guyanese playwright is on Island directing a play written by Nobel prize winning writer Derek Walcott.

The play "Remembrance'' -- sponsored by the West Indian Association -- was written by St. Lucian-born Derek Walcott and addresses issues of colonial education through the eyes and memories of a Caribbean schoolteacher.

Director Michael Gilkes has taught at the University of Kent at Canterbury, the University of Warwick, the University of Guyana and the University of the West Indies -- where he was head of the English Department.

Several talented residents are involved in the production of the play including Ron Lightbourne, former Cultural Affairs Officer Ruth Thomas, Roddie (The Riddler) Nesbitt, Jane Wareham and assistant director Helen Cooper.

Dr. Gilkes described the play as being "a blend of serious and comic -- very entertaining and humorous with a quality of depth''.

He said Mr. Walcott's play was "sensitively written'' and "extremely relevant to the Caribbean situation'' -- of which he considers Bermuda to be an extension.

"Education is at the root of the Caribbean problem of identity... many still don't know what a Caribbean is, or what it means to be Caribbean,'' Dr.

Gilkes said.

"The play poses an important question: do we jettison our colonial past and all we've learned.. .or do we tailor it to fit our present reality?'' In addition to being a director, playwright and actor, Dr. Gilkes is also the education specialist for the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States.

He helps with teacher training and his major focus has been toward education reform. He considers the dramatic arts to be an integral part of the learning process.

"Education reform for today is not about throwing away our colonial past -- it's using theatre arts to empower teachers to get to the students,'' he said.

"Art is as dangerous in our society as politics -- art is a form of suicide, because we don't accept our artists the way we should.

"And theatre art allows a society to look at itself, and look at itself in relation to the rest of the world.

"Drama is an educational force which we must use, and we have to make these texts come alive.'' Dr. Gilkes said Mr. Walcott was "one of the finest dramatists alive'' and said he was one of the few Caribbean dramatists that addressed the issue of race without "veering into farce or some tragic mode''.

Mr. Walcott was more modest about the variety of work he produced, stating: "It's very Caribbean to work in all these kinds of modes -- it's a very heterogeneous society, we can tap into a cultural gene pool that is enormous and produces Derek Walcotts.'' He noted that the play's last performance was, coincidentally, shortly before Remembrance Day, and said: "We have a lot to remember, some of which is nostalgic -- but until we remember the past, we cannot go forward into the future.'' The play will run at the City Hall Theatre from November 5 to 7. There will be a book signing on November 7 prior to the performance and Mr. Walcott will be giving a reading at Bermuda College earlier that same day.

Tickets for the play are $30 and go on sale at the City Hall Box Office on October 26.

DRAMATIC ART -- Caribbean poet and playwright Michael Gilkes (left) is pictured with Bermuda actor Ron Lightbourne. Dr. Gilkes is directing a play by Nobel Prize winning writer Derek Walcott.

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