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'For Better or Worse' - A brilliant Basil Dawkin's production

Published:Monday | February 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer

Alfred (Christopher Daley) holds Marcia (Sakina) during the Basil Dawkins play 'For Better Or Worse'.

A variety of reasons have been presented when couples fail to honour their marriage vows. But certainly not the reasons (at least not in the Jamaican experience) presented in Basil Dawkin's latest production, For Better or Worse, being staged on the grounds of the Little Theatre in St Andrew.

Directed by Douglas Prout, For Better or Worse is a kaleidoscope of clean humour, excellent costumes and some fine acting, wrapped in a shroud of topical and controversial boldness.

The approximately two-month slice in the lives of four characters: Alfred, Marcia, Mrs Shields and Patience, began on the night of Marcia's 29th birthday.

Alfred, a-stay-at-home dad by default, plans a birthday tribute for his wife Marcia at their humble home located somewhere near both Dovecot and Meadowrest cemeteries. But when Marcia arrives home, still awash from the euphoria of a more glamorous birthday treat from her boss, Mrs Shields, she totally disregards her husband's gesture of love. Instead she launches into a tirade, highlighting all his faults. and, adding insult to injury, announces plans to leave him. Her reasons seem irrational to the logical mind.

You see, the mother of two states that after two years of living with an unemployed architect husband, she is not liberated enough to continue living with him, especially in his seemingly comfortable, overly domesticated role. So, at the right price, she walks into a same-sex relationship, with her widowed boss.

Dawkins continues his bold discourse with much twists and turns. Along the way, he presents Patience who, by her timely arrival in and her departure from Alfred's life, may be his fairy godmother. Under her assumed title of a grief counsellor, her 'silver slipper' to him is the call to "rise above" all adversities.

Mild climax

Armed with the language of hope and inspiration, coated in clean humour, the spin mistress, with some help from the world wide banking debacle, propels the melodrama to its mild climax, thus ending the story, but starting a probable debate.

Director and set designer, Prout's directing was punctuated with inconsistencies. While his designs for the three different settings were compatible with the playwright's intentions, he seemed to have an aversion to see his set work. And so except for the scenes with Patience and Alfred, his blockings looked indifferent to the set. At times, characters move for no apparent reason than to do just that - move.

But some fine acting saved the show. Provided with monologues carrying their characters' life stories as the tools to push the envelope of boldness (for better or worse), the actors Terri-Salmon as Patience, Christopher 'Johnny' Daley as Alfred, Sakina as Marcia and Ruth Ho Shing as Mrs Shields, gave creditable performances.

Salmon, undoubtedly gave the strongest performance of the show. Her acting was superb. She brought Patience to life in each change of costume, and each use of gesture and mannerism. And her timing of entrances and exits were only matched by her appropriately coloured and flavoured intonation. Such display resulted in her getting the loudest applause at the curtain call.

Daley's performance was fantastic too. He not only complemented Salmon but has demonstrated that he too can perform light roles as well as serious ones. He was convincing in his portrayal of the two dimensions of Alfred: the "yes darling" and the "no darling".

Encouraging performance

Marcia (Ruth Ho Shing) tries to get Marcia's attention. - Photos by Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer

On the other hand, Sakina and Ho Shing, managed to give encouraging performances at intervals in the first half, but were more consistent in the second half. Ho Shing, usually brilliant on-stage, seemed to find the demands of showing a frustrated Mrs Shields at two different levels a bit challenging. Sakina's shortcoming was too much reliance on facial expression and physical gestures for a role that required more than just the right physical actions.

Quindell Ferguson's costumes were wonderful and helped to reinforce the change in status and emotions of each character.

And when the lights went out, last Saturday's audience described the production as a "fine show" and "good show". But do not just take their words, For Better or Worse, go see the play.