Carnival Medea – the perfect carnival theatre experience

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By Marylin Jones

When Euripides wrote the play Medea somewhere around the 430s BC little did he know that there were some colourful words and expressions not included in his work which would later come to describe perfectly the emotions and sentiments he sought to convey.

The story centres around the Greek tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece and explores the age old themes of love, infidelity and revenge.

Joseph Jomo Pierre (Jason) and Tishanna Williams (Medea) in the Caribbean Premiere of Carnival Medea | Photo credit: Maria Nunes

In the hands of Playwright Dr Shirlene Holmes and co-Playwright/Director Rhoma Spencer this ancient Greek tale was skilfully transposed to the Caribbean with a script that takes all liberties necessary to create a true Caribbean story with distinct Trini nuances with words like ‘’tabanca’’ and ‘’horn’’ and “bacchanal” and expressions like, ‘’Is what possess you?” – those sweet turns of phrase that bring a certain eloquence to the everyday language we speak.

No doubt mindful of the similarities in the freedom of movement between the ancient Greek city states and the freedom of movement among Caricom citizens, the play contains references to inter-island travel – Grenada and Carriacou come to mind – as well as travel between Trinidad, where the play is set, and neigbouring Venezuela.

The setting provides the perfect backdrop for a carnival theatre experience that highlights the originality of Trinidad ol’ time carnival characters and their wonderful dance movements: the midnight robber; the pierrot; the dame lorrainne and the sexiest sailor dance moves I’ve seen in a long time.

Levi King as Tan in the Caribbean Premiere of Carnival Medea: a bacchanal | Photo credit: Maria Nunes
Kearn Samuel as Aegeus in the Caribbean Premiere of Carnival Medea: a bacchanal | Photo credit: Maria Nunes

Director Spencer put together an exquisite cast of actors from Canada, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.  Jason played by Joseph Jomo Pierre; Medea by Tishanna Williams; The macomeres played by Penelope Spencer, Cecelia Salazar, Susan Hannays-Abraham and Marie Chan-Durity.  Mama Neza by Sonia Williams and a talented supporting cast including Levi King, Kearn Samuel, Joseph Lewis, Mindy Giles, Michael Mortley, Triston Richmond and Nathan Pascall.

A line from an old calypso here a line from another one there all bringing back memories of a time when the carnival was as rich with lyrics as with the rhythmic music.

A strong percussion beat echoes throughout the performance. From time to time the macomeres, those characters representing Medea’s community support, weave their way along the aisles chanting familiar melodies. All this to engage the audience in this beautifully adapted story of a woman horned, scorned as they would say elsewhere, who plans revenge in the worst way.

Carnival Medea: a bacchanal continues Thursday 16th February to Sunday 19th February at the Little Carib Theatre, and returns for it’s final run the Thursday after Ash Wednesday. Don’t miss it.


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