On the Reckord | Beadle adds to theatre roles - Messages embedded in Soulart productions
After 20 years in professional theatre, actress and director Suzanne Beadle has turned to playwriting and producing. Her first commercial play, 70 X 7 - The Real Truth, had a two-weekend run last month in The Blue Room, a tiny theatre which is part of the Phoenix Theatre complex, Haining Road, New Kingston.
The play is a domestic drama about the problems faced by the Morgans, a decent, nuclear Jamaican family comprising James (Stephen-Rae Johnson), Grace (Beadle) and their children, Justin (Kaleb D'Aguilar) and Jada (Renae Williams). Ironically, trouble is caused by their pastor, Rev Sinclair (Clayton McEwan), but help comes from a university student, Sean (Brian Maloney), who boards in the home.
The story has suspense, the realistic set (designed by Beadle and Karl Hart) was attractive and the acting good. Williams shone as the embattled but feisty daughter.
Two things annoyed me greatly. One was the inordinate reliance the playwright placed on cell phones to push the action forward. Characters spoke on, or were interrupted by, them about 20 times. The other was the number of scenes and the resulting 14 blackouts for set changes.
Director Mike Daley could have eschewed the realistic set, kept the cast on stage throughout (on the periphery when they were not needed) and brought them centrestage into the light when they were. It's a directorial style much used abroad, though Jamaican audiences (or is it the set designers?) seem to love realistic sets.
I am not a fan of plays obviously pushing a particular message, but Beadle made it plain she will use her newly formed company, Soul Art By Suzanne, to both entertain and transmit messages. Beadle told me "this is Soulart's first production and we happen to be dealing with the issue of forgiveness. I'm not saying we're ever going to do gospel drama, but it's always going to be with a message and the message will be similar to the Christian message in terms of how to live, though not in terms of doctrine, So it can be any religion, really. Most religions have the same core messages of peace and love."
She later added: "We want to provide entertainment that people can bring their families to and that can start conversations. For example, if they're having an issue with their teen we are hoping that they can bring their child to our production and, as a result of that, they can say 'OK let's talk'. I think theatre as a tool is really underutilised in Jamaica and even worldwide."
Beadle explained that Soulart will not be limited to just her productions or to drama. It will accommodate music, art or dance shows, "as long as it's faith based and has a message."
There will be a formal launch of the company later this year. Beadle is also a founder-director of another drama company, Tableaux.