Bermuda to take on Derek Walcott's play `Remembrance': Nobel Prize winner to

Hot on the heels of all the excitement generated by `Les Miserables', Bermuda is now gearing up for another major theatrical event.

Hot on the heels of all the excitement generated by `Les Miserables', Bermuda is now gearing up for another major theatrical event.

This time, the emphasis turns to the Caribbean, as exemplified by that region's literary Nobel Prize winner, Derek Walcott. His play `Remembrance', will be staged by the West Indian Association of Bermuda next month under the direction of Michael Gilkes, well known in the Caribbean as a director, actor and also as a playwright. In this production, Mr. Gilkes will also play the central role of Albert Perez (`One-jacket') Jordan, a retired schoolmaster.

The most exciting aspect of this production, however, will undoubtedly be the attendance of the Nobelist himself at two performances of the City Hall production. An added fillip, perhaps, for those taking part in the play is the knowledge that the author directed the first production of `Remembrance' in St. Croix in 1977.

"Oh yes, it's exciting -- and somewhat daunting -- to think of acting in front of him,'' says Ruth Thomas who, after a long absence from the stage, returns to play Jordan's wife, Mabel. "But I think that would be true of any playwright who happened to be in the audience, because there is always a strong desire to do justice to the author's work. But,'' she adds with a laugh, "when the playwright happens to be a Nobel Prize winner, that feeling is certainly intensified. He has, of course, given us some wonderful lines to work with. It's an honour to do this work and an honour to have him here.'' `Remembrance' centres around retired schoolmaster Albert Jordan who re-lives his life through a series of dramatic re-enactments. Referred to as a "coloured Englishman'', he is the epitome of the old-fashioned, still respected older generation who is, nevertheless, regarded as something of an anachronism. Mabel, his plain-spoken wife has the thankless task of maintaining the peace between him and his artist son Frederick, who has a love/hate relationship with his stern father. The play also takes a look at the generation gap and at the role of education which, in 1970's Caribbean society, was becoming increasingly polarised by the politics of race and the strengthening of market economies.

Ron Lightbourne, who plays two roles in the play, comments, "For me and, I hope, everybody, it is an intellectual and spiritual homecoming because a lot of us have been reading him for 30 years. For him to be actually coming here -- yes, it is overwhelming! But also, comforting and extremely satisfying.'' A former teacher, well known in local circles as a musician and poet and currently employed at The Royal Gazette as education services co-ordinator, Mr. Lightbourne is half Guyanese and, because his parents were Salvation Army missionaries, he spent much of his early life travelling around the Caribbean.

"I was born in Guyana and, by the time I returned to Bermuda, and to Berkeley Institute to do my `A' levels, we had lived in Jamaica, Trinidad, Grenada, St.

Kitt's, the Bahamas and Belize.'' He expresses the hope that one of the outcomes of this important theatrical event will be a truly Bermudian audience, representative of all theatre-goers on the Island. "Both the quality and prestige of the author will provide an unstoppable momentum to bring our theatre together -- the theatre has such an important role to play in our society.'' Michael Gilkes, also Guyanese, and a close friend of Derek Walcott, is also a playwright who has authored eight plays. A well known educationalist of the Caribbean region who has also taught at the Universities of Kent and Warwick, as well as the University of the West Indies and of Guyana, Mr. Gilkes has been a frequent performer and director of Walcott's plays.

On this occasion, he is assisted by co-director Helen Cooper. A practising lawyer, she also obtained a Masters degree in text and performance studies from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Currently, she is working, in conjunction with the education department of the Royal National Theatre, on a Bermudian adaptation of Shakespeare's `The Tempest'.

"I have only been back in Bermuda a year and I was approached by Errol Williams and Angela Barry of the West Indian Association to see if I would be interested in helping with this production. I was very excited to have been invited to be a part of this,'' she says. "Derek Walcott is one of my favourite writers. I think his writing is of a quality that we very rarely see now. He is a poet who is also a dramatist and I think this play is really about those who have been educated under colonialism in a system that has excluded them.'' St. Lucia-born Derek Walcott was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, the Guinness Award for Poetry, the Royal Society of Literature Award and the Welsh Arts Council International Writers Prize. An honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Mr. Walcott was awarded the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 1988. In addition to his formidable output of poetry, drama and essays, Mr. Walcott is also an accomplished artist. Founder of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, and deeply involved in theatre, Mr. Walcott has seen his plays produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Mark Taper forum in Los Angeles and by the Negro Ensemble Company.

Also appearing in the play are Jane Wareham, Roddie Nesbitt and Andre Simons.

Well known musician Gene Steede provides "the musical bridge'' of the play.

Rotimi Martins is the technical director and Pat Philip Bassett is producer, assisted by Phillipa Burke.

`Remembrance' takes place at the City Hall Theatre on November 5-7. Tickets ($30) are available from the City Hall Box Office.

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