Tue | Jan 15, 2019

Fr Ho Lung tackles xenophobia with Queen Esther

Published:Wednesday | November 8, 2017 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small
The production team, from left: Gregory Thames, Paula Shaw, Clayton Giddens, Father Richard Holung, Wynton Williams, Kenardo Merlando Phillips, Cris Shaw, and PJ Stewart.

In light of the global political atmosphere, where news pervades that groups of people around the world suffer persecution because of the circumstances of their birth, Father Richard Ho Lung's latest production boldly presents Queen Esther, as he declares, "Esther was ahead of her time, a young woman who was brave enough to advance the cause of her people, the Jews, in the face of racial prejudice and political xenophobia."

Set in Persia in 478 BC, Esther takes on the full force of the political directorate who threaten to exterminate the Persia-born Jews they think are multiplying too quickly, taking away their jobs and polluting the superior Persian race through intermarriage.

Similar conflicts can be identified in Nazi Germany under Adolph Hitler, the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s under Habyarimana, and other countries which seek to discriminate and legislate against immigrants and minorities to this day.

The Queen Esther production, is supported by a dynamic cast of 70 actors, singers and dancers with Ho Lung's score arranged and conducted by the multi-talented Wynton Williams.

Queen Esther was choreographed by Paula Shaw, and costume design was handled by up-and-coming designer Clayton Giddens. The set, designed by architect Cris Shaw and artist P.J. Stewart - who assures an elegant and practical concept, includes an impressive centrepiece standing 30 feet high. Greg Thames directs the production, with assistance from singer-actor Hugh Douse. Playwright and director Alwin Bully, is consultant to the production.

Queen Esther will be shown at the National Arena in St Andrew on November 11, 12, 18 and 19, with the special school shows on November 9, 10, 15 and 17.

"I am very concerned with the closing of doors to people. I'm very concerned about, that and at the same time, I'm worried about the terrorism. Terrorism is a part of what happened to Queen Esther in her time. The Jews were being murdered and persecuted as a minority. [The Jews] would have been wiped out but then, this very brave woman, despite all her fears, went forth and she offered herself to the king," Father Ho Lung said.

"That's a universal theme. Even now, Jamaica really needs to push forward. Though we are poor and we are being exploited by wealthier nations, we must push forward."