‘Walk good’ Trevor Nairne
Director hailed at ‘Tribute to Trevs’ at Little Theatre
Renowned artistic director Trevor Nairne was the person with the most names at Jambiz International – among them ‘Trevs’, ‘Nears’, ‘Missa Nears’, ‘Missa Muir’, ‘Trevorn’ and ‘Bossie’ – and he answered to all 10 of them “with a smile”. Such was the measure of the man. After all, what’s in a name? A rose by any other name would be just as sweet, à la William Shakespeare.
At a special ‘Tribute to Trevs’ on Wednesday at the Little Theatre in Kingston, the late lecturer and “director’s director” was hailed for his weird sense of humour, of which one student declared, “Yuh haffi have a doctorate fi understand Missa Nairne joke dem.” And it was accepted by many that he was the only one who found his jokes funny. But, all things jocular aside, Nairne, the intellectual creative whose genius was on resplendent display at the country’s annual Independence Grand Gala at the National Stadium, was remembered most of all for his love for his country and his total dedication to everything theatre.
It was a sold-out house, something for which Nairne had an affinity, that greeted the performers at the function, which opened with the national anthem, followed by a special reading of Una Marson’s Confession by a trio of theatre contemporaries, namely, Fae Ellington, Ruth Ho Shing and Grace McGhie. And, given that Nairne wasn’t around to knock heads with Culture Minister Olivia Grange and cut it to a more desired length, the tribute went on for hours. But then again, mere hours are never really enough to fully pay homage to “a man who is regarded as one of the best theatre practitioners to emerge out of the Jamaican crucible since Independence”.
The emphasis was on celebrating the life of Nairne; it wasn’t the time for tears, as host Dahlia Harris pointed out, and the theatre and music people understood the assignment. The National Dance Theatre Company, ASHE, L’ACADCO, Stella Maris, Dance Theatre Xaymaca, Quilt, Wolmer’s Dance Troupe, Tivoli Dance Troupe, Dean Fraser, Alaine, Sharee Elise and Keisha Patterson were all delightful as they took centre stage to perform, watched over by a picture of a smiling Nairne.
The sweet sounds of Fraser on saxophone cruising through the Jimmy Cliff classic, Many Rivers to Cross, was a mood, and the audience showed their appreciation with spontaneous applause at intervals. Deon Somers-Campbell accurately summed up the feelings of many in her tribute song, God Made You Special, and the Tivoli Dance Troupe was exhilarating and colourful in their energetic execution of Last Train.
But it wasn’t just Nairne’s theatre family that was present; his other family was there, too. Upon his entry, Nairne’s grandson was asked for his opinion of this iconic man of culture. The youngster replied confidently: “My grandad … he cares for me so much. He buys me lots of toys and even made a school project for me.”
Nairne’s brother, who was introduced as a singer – stage name and all – was supposed to sing a song. However, his antics on stage left the audience in stitches, as he could only manage to utter a few lines during the chorus and spent most of his time skanking and being a sort of hype man, rather than singing. It was up to his backup singer, Nairne’s son, Trevin, to save the show, which he did with aplomb, belting out the Delroy Wilson hit Rain From the Skies. Trevin told The Gleaner, post-performance, that it was a case of emotion getting the better of his uncle.
Grange, who has worked closely with Nairne on cultural projects for decades, spent 10 minutes in praise of the man with the “boy-next-door” charm, who, she freely admitted, she “will miss”.
“Trevor understood more than most the value of comedy to the Jamaican identity. He understood that laughter was neither a demonstration of frivolity nor an incursion into mediocrity. In fact, among the many accomplishments of this iconic genius can be credited the use of comedy and belly-bottom laughter to engage serious challenges within Jamaica’s social and political ecosystem. Through his enduring work with Jambiz – with such stalwarts as distinguished playwright Patrick Brown and outstanding producer Lenny Salmon and a host of actors such as Oliver Samuels, the late Volier Johnson, Glen Campbell, and a multitude of young and not-so-young actors and stage managers – Trevor became a legend within the Jamaican theatre and earned the respect of all of theatre’s greats,” Grange said.
LOVE AND RESPECT
Quoting Rudyard Kipling, Grange noted that Nairne “could talk with crowds and keep his virtue and walk with King and not lose the common touch. This was Trevor Nairne. Walk good, Trevor”.
The Jambiz family was also allotted special time to show their love and respect for one of their own. In a speech chockful of sound bytes, one that stood out said: “Veteran television director and the man who created the Oliver at Large series, Calvin Butler, perhaps sums it up best when he said, ‘Trevor was easily the most decent human being I have ever met’.”
Nairne, who died on May 6 at age 73, founded Jambiz International just over 20 years ago with actor-producer Lenny Salmon and writer Patrick Brown.