A guided tour and dreams of touring
The two productions I saw on Sunday afternoon are a judicious mix of lightness and laughter on one hand and seriousness and solemnity on the other. They were the LTM National Pantomime Dapper Dan The Anansi Man at the Little Theatre and the National Gallery's (NG) Last Sunday offering, a guided musical tour by Nexus Performing Arts Company of two art exhibitions (comprising paintings, sculptures, and photographs, mainly).
Nexus founder, artistic director and lead singer, Hugh Douse, conducted the tour, leading an appreciative audience from room to room. With words and song, the group imaginatively interpreted the pieces.
They were grouped under the theme 'Portraits in Conversation', the most recent in the NG's Explorations series, which began in 2013 and "examines the significance and conflicted politics of artistic portraiture in the development of Jamaican art from the 18th century to the present, looking at issues such as race, class, gender, as well as the ideas about art and the artist that are reflected in the portrait."
With humour and erudition, Douse touched on those topics and others, pausing not only before portraits, but other forms of art depicting people. One multifaceted imagined conversation was between Samere Tansley's painting of a black woman in a red kimono, Nadine in Scarlet, which hung beside Barrington Watson's painting of a fair-skinned woman in a caftan, Jennifer McAdam - The Caftan.
Songs and skits
Nexus not only sang appropriate songs, but now and then tossed in skits involving the subjects of some paintings. They sang for solitary pieces of art, too, so the "lonely" busts of 'Boysie' and Mallica 'Kapo' Reynolds inspired the songs Sometimes I feel Like a Motherless Child and Don't You Trouble Shepherd, respectively. Some 12 to 15 pleasing, often poignant, songs were sung in the roughly 90-minute tour.
Though the pantomime begins with the cast in full colour dancing to a merry song, and ends the same way (with different clothes and song), and though there are about a dozen other songs and dances in between and lots of jokes, at its heart, there are some serious topics. They include people's gullibility, the rights of some residents of a community to sleep in peace versus the desire of others to earn from late-night music sessions and the unsafe, noisy riding of motorcycles.
Dancer and music promoter Dapper Dan (Ray Jarrett, whom I saw, or Kevin Halstead) is the villain of this musical, which has a script and lyrics by Barbara Gloudon and the Pantomime Company and music by Jermaine Gordon and Calvin Cameron. Many know Dan as 'the Anansi man' - a trickster. Yet, so great is the desire of many members of his community to "go a foreign" that they fall for his dubious scheme - a dance competition which could see them taken on an international tour.
For quite a while, Dan has the upper hand and he cons civilians and evades the police. Eventually, though (for the show is mainly for children), he gets his comeuppance.
Fluidly directed by the experienced Robert 'Bobby' Clarke, the cast gives an energy-filled performance. The members evidently enjoy themselves on stage, project good vibes and evoke continual laughter from the audience.
While no song is particularly memorable, the music is uniformly bouncy. The gorgeous costumes, the show's strongest element, were designed by Anya Gloudon-Nelson, who shows off another talent this year. Because of "circumstances", her mother Barbara told me, Gloudon-Nelson appeared onstage as one of the community residents. She acquitted herself well.
Gloudon was also onstage on Sunday to remember the pantomime's long-time, award-winning set designer Michael Lorde, who died unexpectedly in July.