Talawa Theatre Company makes an interesting decision in reviving and touring this classic but little-known Errol John play. Set in recently independent 1950s Trinidad, we are given a West Indian kitchen-sink drama –a verandah-front drama, given the set – that draws us back to that period.
11 Feb 2014
Moon on a Rainbow Shawl tells the story of three sets of individuals: Ephraim (Okezie Morro) – a bus driver dreaming of immigrating to England; Mavis (Bethan James) – a good-time girl whose affections span many men and the Adams family.
This consists of Charlie Adams (Jude Akuwudike) – who once had a chance as a West Indian cricketer and Sophia Adams (Martina Laird)– his competent and determined matriarch of a wife and their eleven-year old daughter Esther (Tahirah Sharif) and baby.
Other characters include Rosa (Alisha Bailey), the innocent lover of Ephraim, and Old Mack (Burt Caesar) who owns both these ramshackle houses and the café where Rosa works.
While it was a pleasure to see one of the first plays performed in Trinidad Creole (which challenges the ear of the audience initially but then delights) rather than standard English and the work of the accomplished Errol John, one wonders what this revival has to say to modern audiences.
It is well plotted with tension developing throughout the play but while out-of-wedlock pregnancy, prostitution, theft and limited educational opportunities may have been exciting to 1950s audiences, to 21st century audiences this seems like tame fare.
However, this is a very strong production with excellent direction by Michael Buffong and a skilled and cohesive cast. There are many strong performances: Laird shines as the determined Sophia; Akuwudike is pitch-perfect as her has-been ex-cricketer husband and Sharif is perfectly cast as the very believable but astute 12-year old Esther.
Credit must also go to Bethan James as Mavis and Okezie Morro as Ephraim. In essence, this is a very believable insight into 1950s Trinidad. The sets, costume and sound design make you believe you are across the Atlantic and sixty years ago and the Calypso music and crickets twitching a nice touch.
It's just a shame that this performance feels like an exhibit of theatrical history rather than having something to say to modern audiences.
Moon on a Rainbow Shawl tours nationally until 12 April.