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‘Misunderstood’ was a tour de force

The brilliant young production company Troika has been creating quite a stir on the local entertainment scene for a few years now. Their grassroots style of theatre is always topical, relevant, and powerful. Their latest production, “Misunderstood”, completed a three-night run at the City Hall Theatre Saturday night. I was able to catch the opening night performance on Thursday. Here’s what I observed.

First of all, the programme for this theatrical production was absolutely stunning! It was pretty much a magazine filled with any and everything you might want to know about Troika, ‘Misunderstood’ and the cast and characters of the show. The programme completely erased my need to ask anyone their name, or make notes about any show detail at all. So I was free to focus on the stage; nice.

Secondly, the cast was huge. No less than 27 highly talented young people graced the stage over the course of the show; some singing, some dancing, some acting, and some doing it all! The show was set in a fictional high school during senior year, and the players represented a diverse group of stereotypical teens. There was the nerd, the jock, the Goth girl, the gossip, the bully, the thug, the freak, the weed-head, the oversexed teen, the teacher’s pet, the abused child, and the list goes on and on. Each character came part and parcel with their own set of issues, but the size of the cast only allowed for a few characters to be developed in any substantive way, relegating a few ‘stories’ to something like a social milieu, or setting.

The opening sscene was entitled ‘Never Judge A Book …’, and basically served as an introduction to each individual character, as well as their respective “issue”. This scene examined self-perception and social identity in the developing teen-aged superego. The actors basically called out society’s stereotypes about their specific characters, warning that human beings are often much more complex than they appear on the surface.

The story then moved into a series of case studies of select characters in the school’s graduating class. There was the student with the drug-addicted parents, the father and son who just couldn’t get along, the marijuana-smoking student who failed to graduate, the girl gang who terrorise the nerd and the weed-head, the gossip girls who got caught up with boys, and myriad other vignettes that defined the Troika High class of 2011.

Group dances, poetry recitals, dramatic monologues, choral and solo vocal pieces, skits and dance duets depicted the angst, insecurity, diffidence, fear, jubilation, frustration, and often misinterpreted creativity of characters on the verge of adulthood to superb effect. With the added support of the fabulous live band, which was perched above the stage on specially designed scaffolding, each piece was charming at worst, and spectacular at best.

Perhaps the most remarkable and refreshing parts of the entire evening were the standout performances by the male members of the cast. Kioshi Burgess was fabulous as the promising athlete with the oppressive father and pregnant girlfriend; exhibiting ample skills in every aspect of this all-singing, all-dancing, all-acting opus. Kameron Burgess was the kid from the hood who everyone wrote off as a thug. He absolutely owned the role, delivering a tour de force acting display. John Seymour exuded massive stage presence as the weed-smoking senior who failed to graduate, effortlessly charming the audience and then revealing a surprisingly cultured voice during his vocal pieces.

Then there was Coy Millett. This young man evoked memories of the infamous Steve Urkel in his bang-on portrayal of the socially inept every-nerd. He was hilarious throughout, especially impressing with his wonderful physical comedy. Judging from this performance, I don’t feel it’s too bold to say that Coy is quite possibly the best physical comedian on the Island right now (and this is only his first show!). Bravo Mr Millett!

These young black males not only played their roles to near-perfection, they also provided an abundance of evidence to counteract the image of the young black male as a social pariah in Bermuda. This was a decidedly pleasant surprise, and I expect to see these young men flourish on the local and international theatre scene in the years to come; they certainly have the talent to do so!

Other standout performances included Chelsea Warren as the head gossip girl who became sprung (spellbound) by an older man early in the story, and later turned his spell on him. Mia Williams excelled as Claire-Ann, the quiet girl who fell in love with a popular boy and ended up pregnant. Jasmine Trott was the often confused and discombobulated mother of Sacha Dill’s emotionally and physically abused teen; both were excellent. Special mention should also go to Malachi Johnston, who portrayed an alcoholic police officer who harassed Kameron Burgess’ character while on duty, and terrorised Kioshi Burgess’ character at home (he was the character’s father).

Considering that this show was delivered by an entirely amateur cast, huge credit must go to the team behind the scenes. Director Larry Floyd, choreographer Zalika Millett, music director Leroy Francis, art director Ryan Mackeen, and stage manager Ashun Wolffe collaborated to create a monumentally delightful piece of grassroots community theatre with ‘Misunderstood’.

Congratulations to all involved in this production, and many thanks to Troika for creating, and maintaining, a space for young Bermudians to develop and flourish in the performing arts. It’s a space we desperately need in these most trying of times!

the cast of TROIKA's Misunderstood at City Hall. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 30, 2011 at 10:36 am (Updated August 30, 2011 at 10:36 am)

‘Misunderstood’ was a tour de force

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