Play a slap of reality
BACK SLAP ALLEY is not your typical Barbadian neighbourhood – or is it?
Domestic violence, struggles with sexual identity and bouts of jealous anger lived on the same street in the Matthew Murrell play, performed as part of the Faculty of Humanities and Education’s week of activities last week.
Intimate partner abuse was told from different perspectives while highlighting the dynamics of sexual identity and Caribbean love.
The sizeable and vocal audience in the Roy Marshall Teaching Complex was first introduced to married couple “Jasper” (John Hunte) and “Mary” (Tamara Straker) as well as daughter “Shakira” (Toni McIntosh). It does not take long to realize that Mary has a bit of a temper, keeping a cou cou stick close to “put a few licks” in her more rational husband when he does not agree with her.
While trying to understand Mary’s rationale for acting out the ways she does (being bipolar is the best guess) her husband clearly suffers from its debilitating effect. She succeeds in driving her mate to the point of contemplating divorce and at the same time forces a wedge between herself and their teenaged daughter.
The fabulously homosexual “Terri” (Kerry Rollins) rents a small abode from the couple. The night “dancer” is enamoured with his first and only lover of sorts, “Bulldog” (Deevon Clinton), who is fresh out of jail. Clinton rivetingly portrays the bad boy who violently opposes being labelled
as gay. It becomes contentious to the point of blows and Terri’s eventual demise.
Young sweethearts “Lisa” (Leighanne Charles) and “Ryan” (Akeem Cumberbatch) are facing their own struggles. New to the alley, Ryan faces issues of insecurity since Lisa is the main breadwinner. Even after seeing intimate partner abuse played out two houses over, Ryan comes to the brink of becoming a perpetrator.
The idea of violence begetting violence, or anger begetting anger ran deep, providing an unsettling catharsis as the audience awaited revenge for wronged protagonists.
Another interesting dynamic was the audience reaction to some aspects of what was being played out. Some, for example, were so opposed to homosexuality that an act of horrific violence was applauded and even found funny.
In addition, the portrayal of a woman beating a man elicited calls of “punk” and feline-associated words not fit for publication. Furthermore, many men in the audience were in agreement with Ryan’s bout of anger.
Murrell and director Janelle Mitchell kept the ending anticlimactic. That added to Back Slap Alley’s realism and potential for a sequel – which would be more than worth seeing. It certainly aroused a desire to see it again as a member of a different audience.