Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Tuesday @ the theatre | Get a 'Jump-Staat' at The Phoenix Theatre

Published:Tuesday | August 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Gleaner Writer
Melissa Mitchell as Tia and Ricky Rowe as Raddai in a scene from ‘Jump Staat’.
Ricky Rowe, seen here playing handyman Marley in ‘Hurricane Honeymoon Hotel’, plays Raddai in ‘Jump Staat’.
Sabrina Thomas, seen here in a scene from ‘Fallen Angel’, plays Miss Gee in ‘Jump Staat’.

The Phoenix Theatre on Haining Road is quickly becoming a convenient place for aspirant thespians. Though aged and faded, is functional - and perhaps a perfect venue to flex infantile muscles and begin learning on the curve.

Earlier this month, the smaller theatre room on the compound (The Blue Room) opened itself up to Sugar Daddy, a raunchy rendition of familiar, tumultuous relationships rife within lower- and middle-class Jamaican communities. On Friday, it became the premiere spot for Heather Robinson-Foreman's true theatrical debut, Jump Staat.

The play follows the deportation of Raddai, who, upon his return to Jamaica, moves back into his grandmother's community - to the displeasure of his extended family members and the daughter he left behind. He quickly comes to realise that his American inflections do very little to sway people or circumstances in his favour.

Raddai is played by Ricky Rowe, who admirably maintained a 'twanging' accent and swagger, amusing the audience throughout. Sabrina Thomas played Miss Gee, the insightful, older Christian woman who turns out to be much more powerful than she initially appears. Suzette Barrett's character Dela, the cantankerous loud-mouth neighbour, was delightful, though some of her rolling (and hilarious) expressions could be more direct and cutting. Shaun Drysdale, Melissa Mitchell, and Crystal Lattibeaudiere make up the remainder of the cast, directed by David Tulloch.

Though entertaining, there were instances when it was obvious that it was the author's first play. Robinson-Foreman's approach to dialogue is revealing of her amateur scriptwriting. There was room for much more witty banter and clever exchanges between characters. Instead, there was a collection of one-sided conversations. Where that works for stand-up comedians, it distracted from the play's action - leaving one character to stand at attention for a curious amount of time.

"As the theatre manager, I believe it is important to encourage practitioners, whether they are veterans or first-timers, because we all have a voice, and we represent a variety of diaspora, and each one is important," The Blue Room theatre manager David Tulloch told The Gleaner.

"We try our best to encourage practitioners to get into the business side of it more deeply as well. Art is expensive but viable, and it is to understand how to function in the industry that will make all the difference," Tulloch said.