Robyn Miller, Contributor
The name Fabian Barracks may not ring a bell in theatre circles, but if last Thursday's gala night performance of Gaza Boys at the Theatre Place, Haining Road, is anything to go by, all that may change soon for the young, promising writer and director.
When the lights finally flooded the stage of the capacity-filled theatre to reveal a 'ghettofied' set comprising a one-bedroom and run-down graffiti-riddled zinc fences screaming 'Gaza mi seh!' and other messages, theatregoers knew they were in a for a show.
Getting off to a bit of a slow start, Gaza Boys quickly picked up pace to give a glimpse of ghetto life with a lot of laughs and endearment to go around.
About a dysfunctional family - siblings Stephen Hamilton (Jomo Dixon) and Rudolph Hamilton/Wassy (Darian Reid), their single mom, Marva (Renae Williams) and the youngsters' friend Jelly (Romane Duncan) and girlfriend, Christene Marshall (Selena Graham) - each struggling with their own share of the myriad issues that confront inner-city residents. Violence - gun, sexual and domestic; suicide and the most poignant of them all - the ability to choose right over wrong amid punishing poverty, are themes explored in the play.
On his way to finishing high school with hopes of copping a college scholarship, Stephen, the well-spoken, bookworm brother of gangster Rudolph/Wassy, dares to defy the odds by choosing education over a gun-toting life.
But, in the ghetto, decisions like these come with a heavy price. Ridiculed not only by the self-proclaimed 'Gaza Lane Gad' but also his youthful and contradictory mother who questions whether education "cyaan eat", Stephen presses on. But a hot, fussy girlfriend, Selena, and the jostle for his mother's love bring more pressure for the youth, causing him to attempt suicide.
Barracks demonstrates well in his writing how good can prevail over bad when he gets Jelly, Wassy's outrageously comical sidekick, to defect from gangster life while his leader self-destructs.
Shooting his mother mistakenly, probably the only person who had his back, the gangster turns the gun on himself to signal the start of a relationship between younger sibling and his mother.
HILARIOUS YET THOUGHTFUL
Sprinkled with laughter for the entire family, 'Gaza Boys' is serious social commentary yet irreverently funny.
All-round good performances from the youthful cast, at least two of whom are still in high school, Williams, Duncan, and Dixon were clear standouts on the night. The costumes were colourful and appropriately captured the mood, but Barracks would have learnt from the mishap which, though quickly rectified, saw a section of the stage falling down after Stephen's failed suicide attempt.
Now on his third production, Barracks, whose plays are "geared towards social development among youths", said he wanted to provoke discussion around some of the issues he saw among his contemporaries while a student at the Wolmer's Boys' School, and at the same time, help young people navigate the challenges.
The production ran in several high schools from mid-year, with stage management by Steve Guscott and Miguel McKoy.