Wal­cott's Pan­tomime - from Port of Spain to Castries

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Still writ­ing vir­tu­ally ev­ery day, Derek Wal­cott turns 85 next Jan­uary on the cen­ten­nial of Sir Arthur Lewis's birth. Per­haps there should be a mas­sive cel­e­bra­tion across Saint Lu­cia: some­thing like a Jounen Sev­elle, a fes­ti­val of cre­ative think­ing. But in the mean­time, we have 'Pan­tomime', one of Wal­cott's most popular plays com­ing to St. Lu­cia on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 13 for three nights at the Pal­la­dium, San­dals Grande.

First per­formed in 1978 at the Lit­tle Carib The­atre in Trinidad, and pro­duced for the BBC the fol­low­ing year, 'Pan­tomime' has since been re­worked to be­come some­thing of a Caribbean clas­sic. Be­neath its un­var­nished hu­mour, the play re­mains re­mark­ably rel­e­vant and timely in its can­did com­men­tary on postin­de­pen­dence so­cial and racial pol­i­tics.

Wal­cott ex­plores th­ese is­sues through the op­pos­ing eyes of two char­ac­ters – Harry Trewe and Jack­son Phillip - both ma­rooned in Tobago at the less than suc­cess­ful Cast­aways Guest House. Harry Trewe - English, mid-for­ties, failed ac­tor and prob­a­bly bipo­lar – os­cil­lates be­tween his pub­lic per­sona as white colo­nial master and his pri­vate fail­ures in mar­riage, fa­ther­hood and business. Near­ing des­per­a­tion, Trewe clutches at the idea of play­ing Robin­son Cru­soe in a Christ­mas pan­tomime in­tended to im­press his im­pend­ing guests and res­cue his ship­wrecked ego.

Mean­while, Jack­son, mi­nor calypsonian, pan-yard bad-john and hap­pily in­con­spic­u­ous in the run­down guest­house, tol­er­ates the in­dig­nity of play­ing waiter and re­lief car­pen­ter but draws the line at act­ing the part of can­ni­bal Man-Fri­day. When granted the up­per hand how­ever, Jack­son shows him­self to be equally ca­pa­ble of both tyranny and hero­ism.

As it turns out, both cast­away char­ac­ters must wade through a sea of per­cep­tion and prej­u­dice to ar­rive at a common shore of un­der­stand­ing and re­spect. The process, both hi­lar­i­ous and poignant, re­quires a rene­go­ti­a­tion of terms be­tween the two men: black/ white, em­ployer/em­ployee, master/slave. The re­sult is a se­ries of won­der­fully crafted role re­ver­sals, up­root­ing es­tab­lished no­tions of his­tory, race, in­tel­li­gence and so­cial stand­ing.

This lat­est ver­sion of 'Pan­tomime' opened in Trinidad last week­end at the Nor­mandy in Port of Spain. The two-night run turned out to be highly suc­cess­ful and a great lead-up to the much an­tic­i­pated Saint Lu­cia tour. Both ac­tors de­light in Wal­cott's wit and word­play and de­liver the ban­ter and repar­tee for which the play is so fondly re­mem­bered.

Di­rec­tor, Brenda Hughes - her­self a prod­uct of the Trinidad The­atre Work­shop founded by Wal­cott – has pre­vi­ously pro­duced his 'Dream on Mon­key Moun­tain', 'Joker of Seville' and 'Branch of the Blue Nile'.

This stag­ing of 'Pan­tomime', fol­lows on the suc­cess of 'O Starry Starry Night', the Caribbean premiere of Wal­cott's new­est work pro­duced in Au­gust 2013 by Land­mark Events and the Saint Lu­cia Arts Fes­ti­val Company. Pre­sent­ing spon­sor 1st Na­tional Bank, has since com­mit­ted to a se­ries of an­nual Wal­cott pro­duc­tions con­firm­ing its role as a pre-em­i­nent un­der­writer of St. Lu­cian art and cul­ture.

Other ma­jor spon­sors in­clude San­dals Foun­da­tion, St. Lu­cia Ho­tel and Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion and the of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter. Event Part­ners in­clude the Wave, DBS, GEMS, Saint Lu­cia Tourist Board and the M&C Group of Com­pa­nies. 'Pan­tomime' opens with a cham­pagne gala on Thurs­day Novem­ber 13 and con­tin­ues Novem­ber 14 and 15. Tick­ets are avail­able at all branches of 1st Na­tional Bank, out­lets of The Cell, and Land­mark Events on 758 452 8416/7/8. Show­time is 8:00 p.m. nightly.

Wen­dell Manwarren and David Tarken­ter in a scene

from Pan­tomime at the Lakeside The­atre in 2012.

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