Two weddings onstage - one bloody, one fantasy
Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer
Those who love theatre and weddings have the two combined in very dissimilar productions being staged this weekend.
The Jambiz International production Glass Slippaz at Centerstage, New Kingston, is a farce. The Edna Manley College (EMC) School of Drama offering, Blood Wedding, is a melodrama.
Farces and melodramas are both larger-than-life forms of theatre with one-dimensional characters who neither change nor grow. The action is fast-paced; the staging is replete with theatrical devices, like atmospheric music and special effects; and the story is simple, the message obvious.
Prof M.H. Abrams of Cornell University states that, with melodrama, "credibility of both character and plot is sacrificed for violent effect and emotional opportunism". The same is true of farce. That genre, though, is designed to make you laugh, while melodrama tries to make you weep or feel horrified.
A LOW COMEDY
Farce is what Abrams calls "low comedy", which "makes little or no intellectual appeal, but undertakes to arouse laughter by jokes, or 'gags', and by slapstick humour or boisterous or clownish physical activity". Therefore, some may be horrified that Glass Slippaz has been nominated for more Actor Boy awards (11 of them) than any other of the roughly 30 productions of 2012. After all, the awards are supposed to reward excellence in theatre.
But don't go thinking that 2012 must, therefore, have been an awful year for drama. Three indisputably excellent productions that I saw (all Actor Boy nominees) were Stanley, Fay, Pularchie and P, (a Pauline Stone production), Old Story Time (a Stanley Reid production) and the EMC's Ruined. Plus, there were others that I enjoyed more than Glass Slippaz.
You see, while Glass Slippaz is technically good (with professionally designed costumes, set, lights, special effects, sound and lighting), because it is a farce with the above-mentioned characteristics, it has no soul. Art without soul, which doesn't address some fundamental human condition, changes nothing in the world and is "disposable" - a word I borrow from the director of Blood Wedding.
While his Jamaicanised version of the Cinderella fairytale, ending in the wedding mentioned, is quite clever, writer-director Patrick Brown and every one of the over-the-top performers I saw (Glen Campbell, Courtney Wilson, Sakina Deer, Natalee Cole, Sharee McDonald-Russell and Donald Anderson) are working way below their tremendous potential. We'll see how well Glass Slippaz does against its competitors when the Actor Boy statuettes are handed out during Monday night's awards ceremony at the Little Theatre.
Blood Wedding's director, Robert 'Bobby' Clarke, is also the director of another farcical production playing this weekend, the Little Theatre Movement's (LTM) pantomime Skoolaz. Curious about what I assumed would be two very different approaches to handling the shows, I interviewed Clarke.
Blood Wedding, by Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca, is based on an actual event in Nijar, Spain, in 1928. In the play, shortly before her wedding, a young woman runs away with her former lover, a married man. They are pursued by the jilted fiancé and tragic consequences follow.
In his director's notes to the play, Clarke, a lecturer at the School of Drama, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, reveals his student-centered approach. He writes: "I proposed the script for production because I thought that its emotional demands, cultural peculiarities and stylistic thrust offer useful challenges for our young student actors. Students need to have the range of their instruments extended and to learn different approaches to character creation, as well as to be exposed practically to various types of dramatic traditions and cultural phenomena that are either inherent in, or that can be enriching to, their own view of the world."
The production has fulfilled Clarke's criteria and intentions and he told me he was "extremely proud" of it. Last Sunday's audience was happy, too.
Of the pantomime, he said "I am not dissatisfied with the pantomime company. They, too, have risen to the occasion". He explained that, with the LTM,