On Friday April 8th, I was afforded the opportunity to experience the Department of Creative and Festival Arts’ (DCFA) 2016 Student Theatre Production: Rashomon. DCFA is renowned for producing Caribbean based plays, so it was quite interesting to see them take on work originating from outside the region.
This is an imaginative play. The objective of the physical setting, lighting and music/sound is here to help create a magical mood-to cast a spell. Therefore ideally, all involved in re-creating and witnessing this world should allow their imaginations and talents the greatest freedom in fashioning something original and artful.”
(Dr Dani Lyndersay)
About the Play:
Rashomon is now perhaps our closing production in this space. A story which simultaneously clarifies and complicates what the audience knows or thinks it has seen, eventually creating a complex and contradictory vision of events that brings into question man’s ability or willingness to perceive and transmit objective truth.” (Dr Dani Lyndersay)
It was a spectacle oriented production, a beautiful work of art. Staging the Production outdoors was an interesting choice, in the open air, the forest setting was quite believable. The music that occupied the space before the play began was soothing and it magically carried me into the world or the play before I could think about it.
Together with the music, the lighting effortlessly allowed me to suspend my disbelief. However, since the actors were not miked, dialogue was lost from time to time due to being so close to the active bus route, and clashes with sounds/ music from the play itself.
Additionally, the set, language, costuming and makeup were effective in representing the differences between the poor and the wealthy in society. The dilapidated wooden “Rashomon Gate” versus the the bold red gate of the Magistrate’s Court, together with the ‘Standard English’ spoken by the higher classes in society versus the ‘creole’ spoken by those from the lower classes; and the Kimonos of the Samurai and his wife versus the “rags” worn by the bandit, the woodcutter, the wigmaker and the monk.
The strongest actor on stage was Rhesa Samuel, who did a superb job at playing Kinume (the Samurai’s wife). Her voice was always clear and she played the various versions of the character well, effectively communicating the various perspectives the characters had of her. Jeron Hackett‘s performance of Tajomaru, the bandit was full of energy and vigor, but I found him lacking range in the use of his voice and his approach to characterization, but I was happy to be able to hear his dialogue at all times.
The acting was generally indicative of students who are learning and growing, so I expect each performance to be one of diligent attempts at crafting and molding their art. The actors were obviously Caribbean people doing a Japanese play, whether this is a good or bad thing I cannot say. Maybe it allows for the Caribbean audience to experience the story and relate to the characters easily. However, this often disrupted my suspension of disbelief because, although the actors were dressed in Japanese clothing, I was not convinced that they were Japanese characters.
Dr Dani Lyndersay was quite successful in crafting the magical experience she set out to create. She utilized spectacle in the form of lighting and sound masterfully in moving the action of the play. The transitions between scenes were filmic, moving almost like the changing of frames in a movie. However, I must question the use of the opening “corpse” dance and the “wisps”. The dance seemed repetitive, hence it lost my interest early on and the lighting of that scene made it difficult to see it clearly. The wisps or spirits of the forest were highly decorated Moko Jumbies who gave life to the forest when the “Medium” summoned the spirit of the dead to witness at the trial. While the costuming was interesting, the wisps seemed to be under-utilized, thereby having little more than aesthetic value.
Rashomon was both an enjoyable and thought provoking experience. The story is intriguing with enough philosophical and psychological overtones to have you on the edge of your seat. A wonderful spectacle, Go See It!