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Devon Dick: Must-See Guilt Trip

Published:Thursday | January 14, 2016 | 1:00 AMDevon Dick, Contributor

Recently, Vivian Crawford, pro-chancellor of the University of Technology, told me that I must go and watch the play Guilt Trip. So off I went to the Little Little Theatre to watch another play by Basil Dawkins. Dawkins tackles the perennial issue of guilt and how that plays out in real life. He shows how the life and personality of Irene Jackson (Ruth Ho-Sing) were influenced primarily by guilt.

Guilt is an emotion derived from one’s action that violates a moral standard and or one’s sense of right and wrong. Jackson acted out her entire adult life trying to cover up her mistake. Jackson, a bright school teacher, learnt the lesson of the harsh realities of life and how not to deal with guilt.

One is left to wonder whether Dawkins harboured thoughts of being a preacher, and since he did not take that path, uses his plays as his pulpit to explore themes of guilt, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Hopefully, he is not writing out of a sense of guilt. Guilt is an issue for all persons. It is highly impossible for one to be an adult and not have done something that fell short of one’s expectations and that ran contrary to societal values.

TRANSFER GUILT TO OTHERS

As the Bible says, ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’ Some of us have rebelled against the will of God and have been hostile to the ways of God. This has resulted in us feeling guilty. Some of us try to cover up the wrong and conceal the feelings of guilt. Some try to blame others for our inappropriate actions and try to transfer guilt to others. Some of us live in denial that we were wrong and that we displayed emotions of guilt. All these are inadequate responses to guilt, which, in the Christian faith, is dealt with decisively through the death of Jesus.

As the saying goes, burdens are lifted at Calvary, including the burden of guilt. Guilt Trip explores the traditional values of rural life such as sharing with persons who are less fortunate, imparting skills and knowledge to the young pro bono, and involvement in community life. There is nostalgic reference to a time when persons could keep their doors open. There is reference to a cook-out by the river and playing dominoes at a bar in the community. Jackson’s only child, Morgan Hall (Dennis Titus), the overseas-trained scholar, appears to feel guilty that he was not exposed to rural life, and his father Steadman Hall (Oliver Samuels) and he embrace it with gusto.

The audience will feel guilty that we have not embraced and continued the values associated with rural life. The play extols the virtue of reggae icon Bob Marley before Newsweek, the United States publication, had an edition devoted to him. Marley was not perceived through the eyes of his shortcomings, but through his contribution to liberation struggles. The play also took us to school about folk religion, including Revivalism and Pocomania.

The star of the show, Steadman, deals with what could be called reverse guilt. He deals with Jackson’s guilt in an unusual way, and obviously, he has some issues. Dawkins goes against the societal stereotype and has Steadman, the man who plays the role of father figure, strong on family values. This play deals with real issues that are plaguing the society and tackles a complicated family problem head on with compassion, mirth, and seriousness. It offers suggestions but is not a ‘and they lived happily ever after’ play.’

It is a useful guide to adults, parents, and children on how to handle guilt. Crawford was correct. It is a must-see play.

- 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 columns@ gleanerjm.com.