Time for a white hero?
?UNLIKE PREVIOUS WORKS in the heroes suite, Hilary Beckles’ latest play advances an intriguing notion: Barbados is No Country For A White Hero . . . but it should be.
?The 90-minute theatrical presentation of the playwright’s argument for Athol “TT” Lewis to be formally recognised for his mark on history’s page opened last week Thursday at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination.
The intimate audience monitored the moves of pawns and knights around a brown and white chequered space, with kingpin Lewis at the epicentre of the Leandro Soto-designed set.
Lewis (played by Patrick Foster) moved from bed, to chair, to pacing on the raised square. The fact that the protagonist never moved from this main square was an interesting take on the flashback technique.
Dressed in a robe and pyjamas, the lights came up on a hospital bed in St Lucia, as “Ma” (Sonia Williams) and Thelma Ward (Carolyn Brathwaite), Lewis’ young black mistress, care for the ailing man. The majority of the action occurs in different areas around the square, where chequered vignettes of Lewis’ life are played out.
These ranged from the marital woes between him and wife Marge (played by Kaye Foster), impassioned speeches made in Emmerton to secure support, power struggles with Reds (Kenneth Lewis) and even flirty innuendos with Thelma.
It was from that central square that the camaraderie among Lewis, Grantley Adams (Dy Browne) and Wynter Crawford (Neil Waithe) was both established and dissolved. It was also where the three most important women in Lewis’ life knelt to witness his final moments.
And, it could be argued that without such an innovative set design – aided by the right choice of props, that the potency of Beckles’ argument might have been lost as a result of lengthy dialogues, plot holes and a few inconsistencies with costuming.
And while Lewis’ politics was the crux of No Country For A White Hero, introducing a man who was largely unknown outside the circle of Caribbean/Barbadian history academics merited a more rounded treatment. This character treatment could have included the development of Lewis’ passion for Thelma, his relationship with his daughters or the twists and turns of the relationship with Adams.
Instead, director Harclyde Walcott’s interpretation of time and space, perhaps assisted by Soto’s design reified Lewis in some ways, making it hard to see the man as a social activist for the people, as opposed to a demigod to the disenfranchised black poor. But these did not take away from Foster’s commanding stage presence in his representation of Lewis.
Furthermore, the development of Reds’ true intentions could have been further interrogated with further depth of character. Once again, this did not hinder what Foster was able to bring to the role.
Neil Waithe’s Wynter Crawford was another standout, as it was clear he paid careful and consistent attention to the man’s posture and articulation, while Kaye’s gripping depiction of a woman publicly shamed was impressive.
But was Beckles’ play enough to convince that it was time for a white hero? And that TT Lewis was that hero?
Those who watched the play will have to judge for themselves.