Review – ‘Ten to One’ isn’t murder!

11025634_622078871259213_904979967560793221_nTen to One, written by local playwright Rawle Gibbons, directed by Louis Mc Williams and produced by Iere Theatre Productions, tells the story of the Mighty Sparrow’s (Slinger Francisco) journey with calypso music and also the many calypsonians that took similar journeys. It shares with the audience a slice of history that in my opinion, deserves every right to be highlighted as a major contribution to Trinidad and Tobago’s talent, culture and image and I was privileged attend not once, but twice (Saturday 28th February and Sunday 1st March, 2015) at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts. It was my intention to go on Saturday and enjoy the production and then return on Sunday, the closing night, to not only view the different actresses but to ‘lap-up’ Sparrow’s performance within the production.  This is my review…

ACTING

As stated, I viewed two nights of performance and witnessed different actresses in the roles of ‘Doris Velasquez a.k.a. Tants’ and ‘Jean Marabunta’; Frances De Lancey/Kimberly Jones and Jeanelle Archer/Nicole Carter respectively. For the sake this review however, I’ll speak about some of the main characters/actors in their order of appearance within the production.

Frances De Lancey and Kimberly Jones played the role of ‘Tants’ on various nights. Both actresses seemed to have a level of stage presence that would grab the audience from the minute they walked on stage. Frances De Lancey’s version of the character however, was different to Kimberly Jones’. She would speak and move younger than Jones’ version. This was a refreshing difference to witness but one can ask if it worked in favour of the role. Kimberly Jones effortlessly stole the show on Sunday 1st March with her version of Tants and I believe that De Lancey had to work much harder than Jones to achieve a level of characterization necessary for the production, not disputing that her performance wasn’t well done.

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Kimberly Jones as Tants

In his role as Lord Melody, Curtis Gross seemed to get a bit monotone during the show. I know persons will say he attempted to really capture Lord Melody’s voice but I must indicate that it seemed very much a parody of such which I believe made it sound monotonous. I must admit however, that his ‘beats’ as an actor were superb. Maybe not the best singing voice but certainly has a presence that demands attention.

While his physical appearance/voice/performance seemed unlike Sparrow himself, I would say that David Bereaux gave a commendable performance. I would advise though, that maybe a different level of internalization was needed by Bereaux in order to achieve the physicalization necessary to make the audience believe that he is Sparrow from the get-go. Let’s be real, the majority of the audience seemed mature, meaning, most of the audience that attended the production knows who Sparrow is and may have been strong supporters of Sparrow in his more active years, a support that has not died, hence their attendance. I say this because, on Sunday night’s performance, when Sparrow graced the stage for a brief ten minutes, members of the audience stood and cheered him on. Back to Bereaux: he seemed to make the role his own by not trying to achieve a ‘sparrowness’ and I commend him for such but one can stop and wonder what would happen if he tried to become more ‘sparrow-like’ as Denzil Williams did with his role as ‘Kitchener’.

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From the Left: Sparrow (David Bereaux) and Lord Melody (Curtis Gross)

‘Jean Marabunta’: Jeanelle Archer and Nicole Carter. Both Actresses sang beautifully but Archer much like Jones, effortlessly gave an outstanding performance. Carter seemed to be drowned by the other actresses on stage. However, they both added to excitement at the end of the play.

CHOREOGRAPHY & DIRECTING

Choreographer Kimmy Stoute Robinson did a wonderful job with the dances in the play as did the dancers. They added the extra ‘spunk’ needed in various scenes. At times though, it may have appeared as distracting as they sometimes stole the show from the calypsonian performing in front of them.

Director Louis Mc Williams, a veteran in the theatre industry of Trinidad and Tobago, really shaped a production that was entertaining and informative. The set choices made the scenes flow smoothly as the performers were able to transition from scene to scene easily. There are some choices that I disagreed with. For example, performances of calypsoes were played to the audience when they should have been treated more as dialogue. Don’t get it mixed up, there were many occasions when actors performed the calypsos directly to audience in scenes where the audience turned into an ‘actual audience’ within progression of the scene: country club scene and scenes in New York. However, songs that are supposed to be dialogue, actors performed to the audience breaking the fourth wall. What brought me to the conclusion that it was a director’s choice was noticing multiple actors doing same.

Another interesting choice was the constant playing of action within the audience. This really kept the audience engaged, though it seemed messy at times and happened in the dark.

TECHNICAL ASPECTS

There was little to say really about the lighting other than “it worked!” Sound on the other hand, mainly the micing of the characters was poor. This could make or break a performance. On Sunday night, Jones’ mic seemed to be the clearest but for the other actors and all those on Saturday, the lines of the play were sometimes lost. I heard one patron say that Jones’ ability to project was good but it is my belief that the volume level of mics play an important role in micing a specific actor/character, depending on if he/she has to shout, sing etc.

In conclusion, I would rate this production 6.5/10. The music, singing and dancing was always refreshing to witness. Iere Theatre productions continues to be a brand known for presenting meaningful theatre. Do not hesistate to attend their shows in future. They continue with a repeat of Sundar Popo- another great production later this year. History students, music students, literature students and theatre students would be immediate beneficiaries of Iere Theatre productions and the shows that they offer.

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