Walcott's `Remembrance' is a must-see!

*** The winning combination of an excellent script and talented actors succeeded in making the local production of "Remembrance'' a Caribbean -- and now, by extension, Bermudian -- classic.


*** The winning combination of an excellent script and talented actors succeeded in making the local production of "Remembrance'' a Caribbean -- and now, by extension, Bermudian -- classic.

Nobel prize-winning St. Lucian playwright Derek Walcott -- who was expected to arrive on Island yesterday -- penned a complex and engaging play centred around a retired colonial Trinidadian school teacher who wades through memories of a life tinged with both tragedy and humour.

Guyanese director Michael Gilkes gave an absolutely stellar performance as school teacher Albert Perez ("One-Jacket'') Jordan, balancing wry ironic humour with wistfully sorrowful memories in a manner that was both dramatic and realistically human.

Although many Bermudians are still quick to point out that Bermuda is not technically part of the Caribbean, this play served as a reminder that in many ways -- both culturally and historically -- there tends to be more similarities than differences.

Nineteen-year-old Roddy Nesbitt, who played Jordan's artistic son Frederick who manages to frustrate and madden both his father's English and Caribbean sensibilities, provided an excellent bridge between the Caribbean origin and Bermudian production of the play.

Mr. Nesbitt's "Bermudian-ness'' shines through in a way that highlights a distinctly Caribbean and Bermudian frustration among young "radicals'' with the older generation's colonial and "antiquated'' values.

The Bermudian-Caribbean connection was further emphasised by lovely calypso-style interludes provided by Eugene Steede.

Even characters who performed supportive "foil'' roles for Dr. Gilkes' character -- such as Jane Wareham (who played both Englishwoman Esther Hope and American dancer Anna Herschel) and Ron Lightbourne (who played a newspaper editor and an American tourist) -- did so with a subtle grace that caused even minor characters to stand out.

Because of the nature of the issues being addressed in the play, I was under the mistaken impression that the play would be a completely sombre one.

However, the play was filled with clever, sarcastic humour -- carried most notably in a brilliant performance by Ruth Thomas as wife Mabel -- as opposed to the buffoonish, slapstick style of comedy which becomes so quickly tiresome.

But as one character informs Jordan, his use of satire as defence against pain becomes increasingly more transparent as one grows familiar with his personality.

The warring factions within Jordan's character as a Caribbean man raised with English values is highlighted through his personal interactions.

The effect of colonialism's complex legacy is evident in Jordan's most important relationships: his passion for teaching -- regardless of his incongruous English methodology -- and his appreciation for tradition which bumps against his love for revolutionary and artistic sons.

One of the most strident examples of this dichotomy is the two exceedingly different loves he holds for his grassroots, straight-talking Trinidadian wife Mabel and his starry-eyed infatuation with English war officer Esther Hope from many years ago.

His love for Mabel, a woman who mirrors his culture and sparks "joyful fear'' is overshadowed by memories of a passion for Esther to whom he is both drawn and repelled by their differences.

And Jordan's frustration with his own life, squandered in regret and an inability to understand himself or his loved ones, is vented in his relationship with his sons.

Jordan's strained relationship with son Albert Junior, a radical killed during "Black Power'' demonstrations in Trinidad in the 1970s, is played out through his interaction with Frederick.

Ultimately, it becomes obvious that Jordan cannot satisfactorily resolve the fragmentation within his own psyche -- he is unable to truly "see'' his son as an entity separate from himself, and his shadowed past steps on the heels of his family's present-day reality.

But his journey through remembrance is one that may strike a few resonant chords with members of the audience.

This is clearly one of the best plays I've seen at City Hall in recent years (and that includes Les Mis, by the way).

The West Indian Association of Bermuda is to be commended for providing a first-class production.

KIM DISMONT ROBINSON

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