Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 11th 2013 Contents JOSHUA SURTEES
Theatre director Brenda Hughes
is back in Trinidad after 16
years in Boston. It was a long
time away from T&T and her
natural calling---the perform-
ing arts. Her children were the reason she
left---a strong desire to have them educated
at Boston University led her to apply for a
job there, managing the largest faculty on
Directing Derek Walcott s play Pantomime,
which opens tonight at the Little Carib Theatre,
Port-of-Spain, she has jumped back into the
Caribbean dramatic arts like a diver piercing
So, is she one of those Trinis who has many
strings to her bow? She immediately agrees.
"I saw the writing on the wall a long time
ago that the 21st century was going to be
about that, people with multiple skills. It s
good to specialise, but you can easily become
anachronistic, if they change the way of doing
things. You never know where you re going
Back in T&T, and retired from her admin-
istrative management career she is back to
her first love: theatre. In 1994 she completed
a masters in theatre studies at Florida State
and headed back to the Trinidad Theatre
Workshop, where she first met Walcott, but
found the old company "less than welcoming."
So how did this production of Pantomime
materialise? "This is the first (play I ve directed)
ever," she says, "I thought it would be a good
place to start, with two actors, a play that I
know well, a play that will be interesting and
bring people, so it s like a re-introduction.
"Derek and I, even though he had been
estranged from the Workshop, we had always
maintained contact and I produced Dream on
Monkey Mountain, The Joker of Seville, A
Branch of the Blue Nile. And I had a burning
desire to direct this play. So I called him earlier
this year and he was quite amenable. He asked
me quite a few questions, I guess I satisfied
them. He asked me about the cast, told me
the royalties I had to pay and we went merrily
"You try very hard to get sponsorship but
of course you get much less than you need.
But that s ok, it s all par for the course, people
The original 1978 script has been re-written
by Walcott. In Hughes s version "manservant"
Jackon Phillip is played by Michael Cherrie
and hotelier Harry Trewe by Maurice Brash,
returning to the role he created.
The run is scheduled for three days but
everything is in place for an extended run, if
ticket sales materialise. Rehearsals began in
July, for two reasons.
"It s a gruelling play, these two men are
onstage continually for two hours. Secondly
we wanted to really massage Walcott s words
and ideas. We didn t want to just do it , we
wanted to get into the parts, the meaning, the
metaphors, his philosophy. A lot of things
come out about colonialism, the master-ser-
vant relationship. The black-white relationship.
"But it s not a vehement anger between the
two (characters), it s like an understanding."
We are talking at the Little Carib. Overhead
the rain pounds on the galvanised roof. There
is a constant stream of interruptions. Telephone
calls, people arriving to collect tickets. Deliv-
eries, props, logistics. When the box office is
closed, Hughes is the box office and tickets
are selling fast.
"It s frightening," says Hughes.
Halfway through our interview a woman
comes into the theatre to get tickets and tells
Hughes she saw the play back in the 70s.
So will she see the same kind of play on
Friday when it opens?
"More or less. The themes are there still.
The language is probably more elaborate, more
seductive and evocative. Walcott has a way
with words, you know? His puns, his ideas.
Taking a long time to rehearse this play, you
get the fullness of it, you can really wallow
And the play itself?
"The idea is these two guys are stuck, in
more ways than one. They re in a gazebo on
the edge of a cliff. They re coming from a his-
tory of colonialism and they re both changing.
Harry Trewe, the white guy, doesn t want to
be in that position, but history has put him
in the position that because he s white he has
to be the master. He doesn t want to give
orders, he wants to be like a regular Joe."
But that was 1978, surely things have
changed? Perhaps not. In her director s notes,
Hughes says colonialism is still rife.
"You ever see how people treat their maids
in Trinidad? How somebody with a little bit
of power behaves? It s as if both parties agree
that s how it should be."
But it s not necessarily a black people and
white people thing these days?
"No, we have assumed their position."
"Yes. You ever see how the Government
behaves? They run through the traffic with
sirens on... It means we re not thinking. All
we ve done is replace the actors. As soon as
you get in power you behave a certain way.
I guess I ve been in the States too long, they
never had colonialism there.
"But there s hope. The thing about this play
I find, having done it and lived with it and
lived in it for so long; it is one of hope, you
know. At the risk of sounding maudlin, one
of the outcomes of the play is it will make
you feel there is indeed hope for better rela-
tionships all around."
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
The people who put socially
conscious plays on Broadway usually
like to stress how relevant their work is.
The folks behind A Time to Kill may
have more reason than most.
The courtroom drama, adapted from
the best-selling novel by John Grisham,
centres on the mid-1980s trial of a
black man accused of killing the two
white men who attacked his daughter.
The cast went into rehearsals with the
Trayvon Martin case fresh in their
"It's something everyone in the cast
has brought in with them as an
example of how far we haven't come,"
says Ethan McSweeny, the director. "It
Sebastian Arcelus, who steps into the
role of the ambitious lawyer Jake
Brigance played by Matthew
McConaughey in the film, says it was
"jaw-dropping" to be working on the
play in the aftermath of the Martin
"Even though we've made so many
strides as a nation and as a society, the
same issues burn," he says. "As much
as you want to think that justice is
blind, it's just not that simple." (AP)
Broadway play resonates with Trayvon case
Brenda Hughes director of Derek Walcott's Pantomime play which will be staged at Little Carib
Theatre from tonight to Sunday. PHOTO: ANDY HYPOLITE
Brenda Hughes: A factfile
• Born in Carapichaima, Trinidad
• Grew up in Belmont in a house
constantly visited by creative talents like
George Bailey, Geoffrey Holder, Sparrow,
• Her aunt Audrey Jeffers laid the
cornerstone for the Little Carib Theatre,
along with Paul Robeson)
• Attended Woodbrook Government
Secondary as part of the first ever class.
• Taught drama and art by Freida
Artmann with whom she performed her
first school play.
• Joined Trinidad Theatre Workshop as
a teenager in 1967.
• Acts in first play, Belle Fanto by Eric
• Film, TV and radio roles follow,
including assistant director of
Hummingbird Tree, a BBC movie shot in
• Moves from acting to producing.
• Educated at City University, New York
and Florida State University.
Hughes sees hope in Pantomime
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