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Music and more | Room for the theatre

Published:Friday | March 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
The cast of 'Belly Woman'.

I will say off the bat that I am not an avid theatre person, but over the past four weekends I have been in two of the smaller theatre spaces in Kingston and a lecture hall which hosted excerpts from a musical, all this getting me mulling just how much adequate space affects a vibrant sector of Jamaica's creative industries.

For not only do persons and entities such as Jambiz (based at Centrestage in New Kingston) and Basil Hawkins (I saw Pressure Drop at the Little Little Theatre, the accustomed venue for his plays) have a season, but throughout the year, there are productions that have shorter runs and that cover a wide range of topics and approaches.

So, I saw the superb Belly Woman (written by Omaall Maja Bless Wright and directed at by first-timer Dorraine Reid) at the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, which is where a seat of the pants experience led to this consideration of theatre space - not a new topic, I hasten to add, as many have explored it before.

However, I am not focusing so much on the lack of theatre space, but on what I have seen people do with what they have. This was a seat-of-the-pants decision made watching Belly Woman - literally, as my back pockets were comfortable as never before sitting in the theatre I have visited most often over the past decade and a half or so. It is old news to those who go there more regularly then I do, but I was pleasantly surprised to be sitting on well-cushioned seats, a dramatic upgrade from days of yore. I was also feeling a little chill, then I realised that the big fans flanking the audience area before were no longer there. Yeah man, the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre step up.

The Institute of Jamaica Lecture Hall experience came during the Grounation series, organised by the Jamaica Music Museum, where I saw an excerpt from Michael Holgate's Garvey: The Musical. I have always thought that the lecture hall was an excellent space, and seeing the excerpts reaffirmed this. The actual stage is not very large, but the movement that was presented was very impressive and did not seem limited.




No doubt, though, those who have seen the full production at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, UWI, Mona, will have had a much more visually expansive experience. Still, I am impressed with the improvement I saw on one hand and the improvisation I saw on the other.

No doubt there is a serious shortage of theatre space in Kingston and a terrible dearth outside the capital. I have been to the Fairfield Theatre in St James, but, that apart, no other dedicated theatre space in Jamaica. As the government plans a state-of-the-art entertainment facility for Montego Bay within the next two years, I would hope that the theatre is part of the plan. In the meantime, the efforts to restore the Ward Theatre seem to continue. As part of the thrusts for the creative arts and to make Kingston more of a tourism hub, where does theatre fall in the mix? Is it in the mix, really?