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The Carnival is over but we jammin’ still

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Carnival Medea continues at the Little Carib Theatre

After two weeks, eight public performances, many positive reviews and a short hiatus, the Caribbean Premiere of Carnival Medea: a bacchanal will conclude its run this weekend at the Little Carib Theatre.

Citing unforeseen circumstances, The Lordstreet Theatre Company regrets to announce then cancellation of the  March 2nd and 3rd performances, but have confirmed their return on Saturday March 4th, and a final performance on Sunday March 5th.

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Patrons are advised that tickets purchased for the cancelled shows can be refunded or exchanged at the Little Carib Theatre Box Office between 12 noon and 6pm daily.

The Lordstreet Theatre Company and the Caribbean Premiere of Carnival Medea sincerely apologizes for this inconvenience, and thanks the public, their loyal patrons and supporters for their understanding.

Don’t miss the FINAL TWO PERFORMANCES of Carnival Medea: a bacchanal, 4th – 5th March 2017 at the Little Carib Theatre.

For further information browse our website or contact us directly HERE with your inquiries. Like us on Facebook and be sure to join our mailing list for updates and giveaways.

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Carnival Medea – A spectacular reinvention

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by Lisa Allen-Agostini

(Originally published to the T&T Guardian 26/02/2017)

Carnival Medea: A Bacchanal, is a colourful epic that lends itself to different interpretations. As it’s based on Euripedes’ ancient Greek tragedy Medea, you could look at it as a distortion of a classic; or you could consider it an exercise in the subaltern talking to authority—the empire writes back, again. But as a piece of Caribbean theatre it stands as a work worthy of consideration in its own right.

There is indeed much to consider in the work, which premièred February 9 at the Little Carib Theatre, Woodbrook. Highlighting the parallels between ancient Greek religiosity and Caribbean Orisha devotion, the play presents Medea (played by Tishana Williams) as a Grenadian obeah woman who seeks to punish her Tobagonian husband, Jason (Joseph Jomo Pierre), for his betrayal of her.

She has done everything in her considerable power to smooth his way, turning against her father and even killing her brother. For this she has been exiled from her homeland and estranged from her family.

The tabanca for this loss is as strong in its own way as her rage over Jason’s abandonment of her and their sons to marry a “red woman”, the “bourgeois” daughter of Trinidad’s Governor Creon (Kern Samuel). To punish the errant man, Medea plots to have the horner woman murdered. To the horror of the chorus and her children’s nanny (Barbadian performer Sonia Williams in a very strong performance) Medea also plots to murder her own sons.

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Kearn Samuel as Governor Creon in Carnival Medea: a bacchanal | Photo credit: Maria Nunes

The play was co-written by Dr Shirlene Holms and Rhoma Spencer; the latter directed the current production. You can see Spencer’s handprint on Carnival Medea; it is evocative of her work on the UWI production of Shango: Tales of the Orishas, more than a decade ago. It’s there when Shango and Ogun square off in a battle over Oshun, a scene meant to mimic the turmoil in Medea’s mind when she turns over the idea of killing her children to spite Jason. (Spencer, in a short conversation after Sunday’s show, agreed that Carnival Medea is in that sense an “extension” of the previous work.)

It becomes, too, part of a Caribbean literary tradition of works set in the urban community or barrack yard-works like Errol John’s play Moon on a Rainbow Shawl and Roger Mais’ novel Brother Man. When the Macomeres (an iteration of Euripedes’ chorus played by Cecilia Salazar, Marie Chan-Durity, Penelope Spencer and Susan Hannays Abraham) flock like parrots around the half-mad Medea there is a collective understanding that they are conscience and critic as well as comic relief.

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Medea and the Macomeres in Carnival Medea: a bacchanal | Photo credit: Maria Nunes

The set carries the barrack yard theme too. White lace stretches over wooden frames made from shipping pallets to form the walls of a two-storey house. In the barrack yard there is no privacy, and so you can see the figures inside silhouetted against the lace. When Ogun (chillingly danced by Joseph Lewis last Sunday night) threateningly waves his twin knives you hear steel sharpening steel; Oshun’s sensuous undulations give many scenes a ghostly frisson.

Euripides had his Medea murder her sons. In Carnival Medea, the spurned woman rides off to Venezuela in a burrokeet chariot with her children at her side. I found it anticlimactic, but Rhoma Spencer said she had changed the ending of the work for social reasons. “I not killing no children in this 2017, not with post-partum depression and all kind of thing going on,” she said to me.

Trinidadians are sadly used to the real life spectacle of a man murdering his own children to spite his cheating wife. Here, Spencer rejects that solution and says that even at her worst excesses of grief and madness a Caribbean woman wouldn’t put God (by whatever name you call Him or Her) out of her thoughts and do that. Carnival Medea’s enduring message might have to do more with contemporary Caribbean gender politics than Greek tragedy.

Carnival Medea: A Bacchanal, was produced by Lordstreet Theatre Company. Don’t Miss the Final Run 4 -5 March at the Litle Carib Theatre

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Medea (Tishanna Williams)  rides away in a  burrokeet with her two sons (Nathan Pascal and Trison Richmond) | Photo Credit: Maria Nunes

Mad Medea, A Play for the Season

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By Pat Ganase 

(Originally published to the Trinidad Express 24/02/2017)

A play, a play, a play! Carnival is made for plays. Ye Saga of Merrie England. Paradise Lost. Sailors ashore. Bats and Butterflies. Every character has his role: dragon dance, midnight robber talk, jab molassie flinging whip, minstrels chatter, big bamcee dames lorraines, moko jumbies striding against the sky… It’s a long tradition prompting Errol Hill to write his “mandate for a national theatre.” Enter Rhoma Spencer’s Carnival Medea, a bacchanal, by way of Dr Shirlene Holmes remake of Euripides’ Medea. Every remake is an update just as every Carnival sees “an extra sequin or two on top the previous year’s (characterisation) … mas playing must be and bound to be a ritual.”

In the first place, Medea is not a woman to like.  She’s like a spider – black widow in her web – spinning her story, working out the threads of her own fate. When we meet her on Carnival Monday, she’s bite up, beside herself with spite and bitterness. At first, you are tempted to commiserate that she has been so mis-used, discarded by the man for whom she left her father’s home for whom she plotted and murdered.  But when we see how she is intent on alienating all who would comfort and advise her, it is hard to sympathise. Later on, when she reveals the plan to revenge herself on the man who has wronged her, you even wish that some external force – the Governor, the man from “down the main,” Jason, or one of the gods shadow dancing in her mind – would do her in, smite her. But no, Carnival Medea, a bacchanal, is a mas true to the classic Greek drama over 2000 years old, and cannot, does not, depart nor betray the personality.

Here is the woman unhinged by the ungrateful cavalier attitude of Jason whom she helped to possess the golden fleece. She is the mother of his two sons. Here is Jason, the boys’ father, a happy-go-lucky batonnier (stick fighter) planning to wed the Governor’s daughter to gain upward mobility in a new island.

Everything about Medea is thorny and repelling. She is the classic Carnival “baby doll” child mother from whom big men run, and other women turn their children’s faces away. She’s needy, wanting, inconsolable, the unmotherly mother who uses a child as bargaining chip to shame the man. Against her character, everyone else pales.

Even if you want to say, like the chorus of Macomeres, ease up girl, is Carnival, play a mas. There’s no other persona that Medea wants to be. She’s stuck in vengeance and retribution mode. And that’s a thing: how could anyone want or feel sympathy for her. As the play progresses, there’s more and more passionate protest, less and less reason. We witness a descent into madness, hell on earth.

If this were a feminist play, we could feel justified in the course of her actions. We could think, and say, Jason look for dat. But no one – and there are strong women throughout the play – can sway Medea by reason, or humanity. Not the Macomeres, a chorus of female conscience to Medea’s steely determination, played wonderfully by leading ladies in their own right, Cecelia Salazar, Marie Chan-Durity, Penelope Spencer and Susan Hannays-Abraham. Not the gods, the Orishas Shango, Ogun and Oshun. This is not a play about women’s rights. It is a plea for humanity, reasonableness, the order of life overturned during the mas for a look into the “diametre.”

The end is inevitable. The carnival is over. Medea has run her course, carries out her plot to take the lives of the innocent to spite those she feels have wronged her. Jason is beyond bereft.

For the two hours of the play, we are transported into another mind, a madness, a bacchanal. Spencer must be commended for the superb lyrics of her characters, her voice in Euripides mouth, for bringing to life strong performances like Nen and the Macomeres. She is also to be credited for the economy of the ensemble, cast, sound design and performance. Of course, the costuming is superb; and the technical production smooth and seamless. Carnival Medea, a bacchanal, is well worth your couple of Carnival hours.

Don’t miss the FINAL RUN of Carnival Medea: March 4 -5 at the Little Carib Theatre. Tickets $200

Carnival service at Archbishop’s House

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(Originally published to the T&T Newsday on Friday, February 24 2017)

A clean, wholesome version of Carnival was celebrated yesterday afternoon on the grounds of Archbishop’s House, Maraval Road, Port-of- Spain.

The event, first held last year, was attended by children from the Lady Hochoy Home and Marion House for Boys, among others. Seated on white chairs in the driveway as cars drove past around the Queen’s Park Savannah, the children enjoyed a performance by the cast of the play, Carnival Medea — a Bacchanal, a calypso from Lord Superior, a pan performance by Johann Chuckaree, and readings from the Bible about moments of celebration and joy.

Chief Celebrant at the Carnival Service, Father Robert Christo, told Newsday that a reading from John 2: 1-12, was chosen because it talks about “Jesus celebrating the wedding feast, celebrating joy.” “Celebrations have always been a part of Christian tradition, this is why we must celebrate and encourage the clean, wholesome, fun parts of Carnival (while) condemning the behaviour, the lewdness, the excessive drinking.” Christo explained that through this and similar services, the Catholic Church is providing “an alternate way of celebrating the festival. We must recognise that if we don’t control Carnival, Carnival will control us. This is about interjecting something very positive, uplifting, in the midst of the more lewd aspects of Carnival.” Newsday also spoke with Rhoma Spencer, co-playwright of Carnival Medea. She said Christo saw the play at the Little Carib Theatre.

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.

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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.

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

Carnival Medea offers a new high

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By Pauline Mark (Originally published to Life in Trini Chocolate 11/02/2017)

Carnival Medea is a local, theatrical production starring Tishanna Williams as the title character, as well as Penelope Spencer, Cecilia Salazar, Marie Chan-Durity and Susan Hannays Abraham. It is a modern, “Trini”, retelling of the Greek classic, Medea of Euripedes and runs from the 9th-19th February 2017 and resumes on the 2nd March, until the 5th.

The production features beautiful costumes, hypnotic drumming, dexterous dance moves and bombastic and verbose speeches and dialogue. The artistic direction is paramount; with all elements falling into play nicely and clearly conveying the look and aesthetic of Carnival. The irony comes full circle as those with historical knowledge know that our Carnival has a Greek connection. Many facets of local culture are delicately woven into the fabric of this production. Including the much-enjoyed and lauded “Macomeres” who reflect societal views and rationality. However, the sweet twist is that they also reflect different women of socio-ethnic realities within the Trinbagonian social fabric.

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The Macomeres | Photo credit: Maria Nunes

At one point, I realised that all four actresses are former Westwood Park cast members, and as God is my witness I closed my eyes and saw Vashti and all the ladies there… back on the tele, circa 1999. This magical theatre moment was heightened by the fact that right in front of me (at the centre and front of house) sat Danielle Dieffenthaller and Mervyn de Goeas; Westwood Park Director and Writer respectively. Next to them was another cast member, Raymond Choo Kong. You can’t make this kind of voodoo up….it just happens.

I laughed, I wanted to cry and at times I became pensively nostalgic. Stand out performances include the aforementioned Macomeres who just kept the humour rolling and made great use of the stage in their ornate Victorian-esque Dame Lorraine attire; each of a different colour to add clarity to the persona of the individual commesse maker.

Beautiful dancing by Michael Mortley and Christopher Sheppard who had intricate work to do with props. However, my favourite for the night was Joseph Jomo Pierre who was “everything”. I had never seen or heard of the actor before, but I will remember his name (Fame…Debbie Alleyne never lie). He was so damn good I became concerned for his health. The truth emanating from his entire body and spirit when he gives that speech to Medea, after she has enacted her revenge is mind blowing. However, nothing compares to that scream he gives in the end (“ahhhhhhhrrrr”). If only I had a sound byte. It was the scream heard around the world; the scream of pain, lunacy and the heat of the Carnival, a scream to end all noise and take its bearer and listeners to their graves. The howl of the werewolf and the cries of the banshees want nothing on it. I could not believe a human could make such a noise. I lovvvvvvvvvvved it!!!!!! Excellent work by leading lady, Tishanna Williams who delivers a lot of wordy dialogue with conviction and poise and is regal and beautiful in her blood red costume as the scorned and equally conflicted Medea.

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Joseph Jomo Pierre (Jason) and Tishanna Williams (Medea) | Photo Credit: Maria Nunes
After watching La La Land and Moonlight, I have been on a lot of creative and spiritual crack and Carnival Medea offered a new high. The street procession at the end, which signaled the close of Carnival; that hunting period when the reign of the merry Monarch has come to a close, made the hair on my arms stand. Suddenly, I think of something as inane as Nicki Minaj’s Pound De Alarm music video; the end where she walks through the street at Carnival,ominously, while all the debris and fluff of the parade is lying there (once decorative, now garbage). Then images from the film Black Orpheus come to mind and the Greek connection comes full circle. Art, history, diaspora and culture. It is clear; Carnival Medea will be a classic because it is able to make one think of the old, the new, the future, the sacred, the profane and the perfunctory. An amazing production, magnificently directed by cultural legend Rhoma Spencer and brought to life by a versed, committed team of theatre practitioners. If you do not go and see this play, then you will not really experience Carnival 2017! Nuff said.

Carnival takes on a different stage

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By Kimoy Leon Sing (Originally Published to the Trinidad Express on Feb 9th, 2017)

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Carnival Mede | Photo credit: Maria Nunes

You know the saying, “Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned” and the people behind Carnival Medea – a bacchanal says they plan to deliver all that and more.

The play is a Trinidadian manifestation of the original Greek tragedy, Medea done by Euripedes more than 2,500 years ago. Written by Dr Shirlene Holmes, a professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, USA and Trinidad-born/Canada base playwright, Rhoma Spencer, Carnival Medea exudes the nuances of Trinidad Carnival, the vibrancy of its people and humor while exploring the forces behind infidelity.

The play which is based on Greek literature tells the tragic story of Medea. Forsaken by her husband, Jason for a younger woman, who he then takes as his bride. Medea in her quest to take revenge for her pain and despair, plots to kill his new wife via a cape she actually gives her children to take to him; to take to his new bride as a wedding gift. Medea’s anguish and rage is so deep; she also kills her two sons. This is the original Greek tragedy, and though for some audiences the topic might be too dark, Holmes and Spencer is able to depict some of the heart-stopping scenes with a deft hand while putting their own twist to the ancient Greek myth.

Proud of the achievement of her team, and a play which took more than 13 years to come to fruition, Spencer said, she is thrilled to finally premiere, Carnival Medea – a bacchanal in the land of her birth. For Spencer, Tobago holds a dear place in her heart having spent most of her childhood at Scarborough RC and then Scarborough Government Secondary. She later transferred to Tunapuna Government Secondary. She then lived in Tunapuna and Arima for a short time until migrating to Toronto, Canada where she currently resides.

After a world premiere at Georgia State University’s Dahlberg Hall in Atlanta, directed by Keith Timms, and rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, Carnival Medea — a bacchanal made its Caribbean premiere at the Little Carib Theatre last night and continues until March 5.

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The line stretched around the corner as patrons gathered for a first look at the Caribbean Premiere of Carnival Medea |  Photo credit: Aaron Charles [@chaarlie868]