On Friday, I watched Basil Dawkins' play, Divorce Papers, which was far more than the issuing of divorce papers, but delved into issues related to divorce such as causes, life after divorce, relationships with ex, and children. Dawkins has chosen a current issue for the imagination of his pen. Providentially, the Sunday Gleaner's front page story was 'Divorce overload', which related a story of how the justice system is not coping with the backlog of 600 divorce cases. In a five-year period starting in 2008, the number of divorce cases has risen from 1,654 to 2,410, a whopping 46 per cent increase. Perhaps, Divorce Papers should be required watching for those who are contemplating divorce.
There is much that a society can learn from playwrights who tackle serious issues while lacing the situations with humour. Patrick Brown's play Saving Alligator High examines our educational system and how it may be fixed. This play also deals with an important issue with humour.
Dawkins, as is his custom, uses his Christian background and understanding to explore the ramifications of divorce and how persons should relate after divorce; how the family should respond to a child that is the result of an extramarital affair, single parenting, etc.
Dawkins promoted not the western concept of nuclear family of mother, father and two children, but instead promoted a family structure more in line with the Judeo-Christian extended family and the rural Jamaica outfit. Dawkins, who usually gives women strong characters, not for the first time deviates from that pathway and instead Oliver Samuels was given a major saintly role. Samuels handled the character very well while evoking laughter. Perhaps the re-emphasising of lines was too often.
Dennis Titus was a revelation. He was very good and convincing, especially when he was defending himself against his cougar. Perhaps the cougar (Ruth Ho Shing) was at her best when she was dying, and Maylynne Lowe was her usual forceful self. There were some novel moments, such as having two scenes on stage simultaneously.
Some patrons did not like how the play ended. However, I thought the ending was brilliant. For me, the ending separated the play from being a Mills and Boon-type of story with everybody living happily ever after. It also reminds us of the cyclic nature of life and that the struggle continues.
Divorce is not a laughing matter. Divorce is a deviation from the ideal and the normal intent of persons when they get married. Even when a marriage is bad, persons can experience mixed feelings after the divorce. Divorce, therefore, solves many problems but it usually creates some new ones. It takes mature individuals to relate well to each other after a divorce and to form healthy relationships afterwards.
In the past
Divorce in the Old Testament was allowed. In fact, some would claim it was too easy under the Mosaic Law. A husband could serve divorce papers based on his dissatisfaction with her cooking. Jesus, in his restriction concerning divorce, was protecting the rights of women in requiring that the husband should have a good cause to file for divorce and not expose her to financial ruin. With the partners to a divorce being entitled at least to 50 per cent of the proceeds from the matrimonial home, women are not so exploited economically. However, we need to look again at the issue of divorce as it relates to the well-being of children.
Dawkins shows that, in Divorce Papers, we need to handle divorce matters with care.
This play is not only for persons who are divorced or who are contemplating divorce, but for all persons interested in romantic relationships.
n Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.