REVIEW: Hatuey – A Wonderful Reminder of the Power of Strong Will and Conviction Even in the Face of Death

Upon entering the Central Bank Auditorium last Thursday October 8, 2015 for the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies’ Production of Hatuey – A Play by Raoul Pantin which was directed by Rawle Gibbons I got the sense that I was about to witness the opening of a time capsule and the unfolding of a treasure. Having an opportunity hear the members of the audience reminisce about the good old days when the play was first staged further ignited my anticipation.

The play Hatuey is Pantin’s dramatic interpretation of the legendary Taino warrior who fled [to] Haiti in the aftermath of Columbus’ landing and sailed to Cuba to alert and organise indigenous communities against the imminent invasion of the Spanish.

~ Hatuey -The Play, Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies

The play highlighted the struggles and conflicts the Tainos experienced but interestingly the conflicts of the Spanish were also evident.

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On a great intimate stage such as the one in Central Bank there is a tremendous amount of pressure for actors to be completely immersed in their roles because absolutely nothing would be missed by the audience. The performances of the Tainos were stronger and more compelling. I must admit that I am a huge fan of Nickolai Salcedo and his portrayal of Hatuey was extremely captivating. Salcedo was able to tap into that intensity which I believe would be required for a proud Taino warrior fighting for his lands and people who were being massacred. He was hands down my favourite performance of the night. As Hatuey’s mentor, Tumanaro (Arnold Goindhan) attempted to be the voice of reason who could somehow quell the violence that was ensuing at the time. I found Goindhan performance was commendable and I enjoyed the dynamics with Salcedo. The Taino women had more silent moments within the play which I believe require just as much commitment as the dramatic scenes. Sadly, there were moments when I felt that the women fell out of character and looked a bit lost on stage.

On the other hand, the performances by the Spaniards were a bit disappointing. Though the “New World” was described as a clump of bush infested by mosquitoes and heathens which were the Indians I never truly felt the disgust. I expected more of an air of superiority, a sense of entitlement and even some arrogance from the Spaniards which I found were all lacking. Though I applaud Martin Daly’s bravery in the debut performance as the Governor, Don Berrio Hernandez, there were moments I felt that the performance was lack lustered and unconvincing. Also, Fabrice Barker as Manuel de Ortega came across more as an insolent child throwing tantrums as opposed to an imposing soldier which made the role laughable. I would have loved Barker’s intensity to match that of Salcedo’s. However, Fr. Dominic Las Casas (Che Rodriguez) gave the most scintillating performance as the pious yet passionate priest who advocated on behalf of the Tainos and strived to save their souls by converting them to Christianity.

In the end I am a sucker for a good period piece. The costumes (designed by Paulette Alfed) were brilliant and though Edwin Erminy‘s set was minimalist, it was functional. There was great use of the multi-leveled stage and space by the actors while the sound effects and Ken Joseph‘s lighting brought the story to life.

The Story of Hatuey and many others which chronicle the injustices suffered by the Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean deserve to form part of our oral tradition. I thought the play Hatuey was a wonderful reminder of the power of strong will and conviction even in the face of death.

The following poem has no relation to the review but it was in the program and thought I’d share it with you:

EDEN

We cannot return to Eden

This sky must first turn stone, the sea

Empty itself into desert dry as bone, hills

Stripped naked of green, our laughter turns tears for

Innocence is once

-Raoul Pantin

Hatuey continues at the Central Bank Auditorium 15-18 October 2015. For bookings please call the Lloyd Best Institute at 663 5463 or email sunity.maharaj@gmail.com or skye.hernandez@gmail.com

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7 thoughts on “REVIEW: Hatuey – A Wonderful Reminder of the Power of Strong Will and Conviction Even in the Face of Death

  1. On Friday Johnathon Thacher played the role of Tumanaro not Arnold.

    Other than that minor correction I want to thank you for being as detailed and as truthful as you were. We need this to continue.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much for your review. I think it is of the utmost importance to reflect on the work that is presented in our stages and to discus it in depth. This is particularly true in the case of design, which usually takes a back seat to other aspects of the theatrical experience. That is why I wanted to contribute a brief note on the set design.

    The scenic space was conceptualised from an indigenous perspective, that of the Tahinos and their imagination. I think that is what best suits Pantin´s intention with the text (as opposed to literally recreating all locations as an outdated European design would have done).

    That is why we researched Tahino construction techniques and used bamboo and rope as our basic materials. Bamboo is also a very cheap and eco-friendly material, so it makes perfect sense to use it in the theatre! The shape of the space, a circle of earth, also comes from Tahino cosmogony. With this language of materials and technology, we attempted to create a space in which all the characters would appear to be trapped. Hatuey and his people are obviously trapped by history but the Europeans are also trapped in their roles. For this purpose, we exaggerated the angles of bamboo so it would suggest the feel of a cage. In placing the scenic elements in the space, we tried to take advantage of characteristics of the venue to show how, through the imagination, the Tahinos can leave this symbolic cage and occupy other spaces.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Mr. Erminy,

      You are most welcome. I consider it a privilege not only to have the opportunity to witness good, local theatrical work like the play Hatuey but also to share some of my views of my experiences.

      I do share your sentiment that often times set design is placed on the back burner which is saddening because it can play such a vital role in conveying various themes within a theatrical piece. However, I do understand the financial constraints in staging a play so finding economical options without sacrificing the integrity of the set design should be one of the paramount considerations. I must say that I appreciate that the Production Team took the time to do proper research. The set design did in fact captured the perspective of the Tainos and I loved that authenticity.

      “Only imagination frees us” was one of my favourite lines in the play. I was able to glean that feeling of being caged/ trapped from both the Tainos and the Spaniards along with the strong desire to escape. In the final analysis I thought the set design was effective.

      Thank you for your insight and keep up the good work.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Mr Millington. Perhaps we should remind both producers and designers that, even in the absence of a proper budget, “only imagination frees us”!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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