Tue | Sep 25, 2018

One man’s life in three acts

Published:Tuesday | June 9, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Stefhen Bryan
The cover of 'Black Passenger, Yellow Cabs's by Stefhen Bryan.

So far, Stefhen Bryan has had as far-flung an experience presenting Doodu Boy as his life. Which is appropriate, as the one-man show is autobiographical, Bryan using the production's three acts to relive on stage distinct phases of his life in different countries.

Bryan told The Gleaner that Act One covers from his birth to 15 years old in Jamaica. Act Two is set in the USA up to when he was 36 years old, and the third up to the present in Japan.

So in July 2013, Doodu Boy played in Los Angeles, California, with another US stint the following year. He has also played in Japan, doing shows in Tokyo, Kobe, and Osaka. Now, he will be taking Doodu Boy home publicly (there has been a restricted showing previously, as well as one for the schools Bryan attended in Jamaica) as it runs from Thursday, June 11, until Sunday, June 14, at the Theatre Place in New Kingston.

He is also the author of Black Passenger Yellow Cabs: A Memoir of Exile and Excess in Japan and Only Begotten.

While Bryan sums up Doodu Boy as "95 very good minutes", he makes adjustments to the script based on where he is presenting the artistic expression of his life. "When I am doing it in Japan, there is a lot of Japanese in the text. In Jamaica, I can let loose and not be worried if it is accessible to a multicultural audience," he said. "In New York, I put in more patois."

However, Bryan said the language adjustments "do not change the core of what the play is about".

A lot of what Doodu Boy (a nickname Bryan got as a child after falling into a cesspool) is about is emotionally distressing - as was a life in which Bryan repeatedly considered suicide - and being on stage takes him back to those moments. "That is why I am able to present it on stage and why I can be vulnerable," Bryan said.

However, releasing the emotions is not a simple matter of relieving himself of a burden. "It is not therapeutic on stage. It is actually quite painful. I go there every tine," Bryan said. At least one very close family member has avoided the pain. My father refused to see it," Bryan said. While his mother died 12 years ago, her sisters have seen Doodu Boy.

As a child of the 1970s, Bryan has seen some social unpleasantries in Jamaica. He clearly remembers a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) armoured vehicle providing an escort for students from his area going to primary school during the deeply politically divisive and deadly violent period. He also saw fearsome police special units at work ("Shot, gun butt, chop ...").

However. Bryan also saw at least one thing that remained with him and led to sensory delights. "My preference for yellow East Asian women started in Dunkirk (where he grew up in a church community) with Mr Chin shop with Mr Chin wife and daughter. I developed this

fascination from an early age." Bryan said. In addition, he said, "they became my economic role models".

He had a somewhat turbulent time in the US before settling down and now living between Japan and California. Now married, Bryan said, "We all have a story. Not all the people have the courage to share their story."