Wednesday 27th December, 2006


The truth about ab training

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  By Patricia James

Jemma Allong Redman spent half of the year in 2005 trying to get Beryl McBurnie’s folk house together. Allong Redman considered the local icon, her close personal friend and mentor. However, when she tried to restore the facility she encountered quite a bit of opposition.

“I had trouble getting actors and resources set up,” she said of the pains she faced to accomplish what she’d said she returned home to do. It is critical to do this work here. I am only doing my contribution to this development of theatre. Others are doing their bit but I came here to get a home for the theatre.

“Soul of country if it isn’t preserved, what are we? We are importing things without question. No more tradition. Maintaining who we are.”

She longs to restore the tradition of McBurnie and the other great theatrical figures into the modern day vernacular. “People think doing things in her name is what’s important but she was about the work.

“She was one person that although people were critical, she accomplished a lot. She sacrificed.”

Strand and Relevant’s vision

Allong Redman says that the difference between Relevant Theatre’s new home—the Strand Theatre—and the other facilities that house theatrical show is that it is not a rental facility. “It is a home where the living culture will be harnessed, preserved and taught for present and future generations.

“If the culture has to be preserved, harnessed and taught,” she surmised, “everyone has work to do. People have to become involved. Theatre is a business.”

Allong Redman believes that it is only after theatre finds a home that the organisation of theatre can take place.

“Funding is important,” she says. “The artiste has become a hustler because of how the system operates. “[Richard] Ragoobarsingh and [Raymond] Choo Kong can afford to put on large professional production and they can do this because they put on commercial theatre.”

Allong Redman maintains that these shows are important to the development and showcasing of nation building productions but says that while they sell, not every [theatrical] show will be popular or will have mass appeal.

Among the reasons Allong Redman gives for the poor state of local theatre is the basic lack of respect.

“A lot of why I came back was a hungering for what we had in the 80s,” she disclosed, “Artiste lack respect for each other, this is at our own down fall.” Redman sees that now the fibre is unravelling they don’t have respect for the culture. “There is no respect in society on the whole. Traditions are not being passed on.”

Redman hopes that Relevant’s new home will be a place for artistes to gather and network. She plans to unveil a new facility called The Sidewalk Cafe and will serve food, beverages and encourage an exchange of ideas between artistes.

“When I look on the space to do I Am Risen (the play she wrote and directed in April of this year), I saw it as a resurrection to the heart of the city.

“There is a languishing of some of our local artistes that are still alive. Hope they’ll come and teach and lecture to pass on to younger generations.”

Among Allong Redman’s designs for the theatre she plans to erect pictures and sculptures of icons of theatre so that patrons can see it as a place of history and preservation.

The Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, Joan Yuille Williams has agreed to be patron of theatre.

Theatre is vital to society

Allong Redman quotes a piece of literature from Derek Walcott’s The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory, “A morning could come in which governments might ask what happened not merely to the forests and bays but to a whole people.”

“Continuity is nation building,” she explains, “culture, acting and theatre are misused words.”

Allong Redman points to the break down of society and relates it to the breakdown in our cultural traditions.

She goes on to speak of Relevant Theatre Productions’ mandate. “We are not training to be stars. We are about a collective.

“We want to breed a difference in what we put out of here. We want people who are serious and passionate about the work and have commitment.

“Theatre is not just dressing up, putting on makeup and going on stage,” she chastised.

“The fault is in the training.”

She opines that the corporate world has to be more socially responsible as far as theatre. “Not everything to be the bottom line.”

“On the whole we are reaching to a point in theatre that if we don’t get serious about responsibility, accountability we’ll have to ask, ‘Where is this place?’”

Ralph Campbell resident artiste at The Strand

Ralph Campbell will be the artiste in residence at The Strand. Campbell has done a lot of work in the dramatic arts locally and internationally.

His focus at Relevant Theatre will be on actor training — developing the skill of performers who’ve had some level of experience.

Campbell’s sessions began in late October, on Tuesdays and Thursdays and has been very successful.

Jemma Allong Redman says that Campbell’s role as Artiste in Residence at Relevant Theatre will be “to devise and develop programs and strategies for natural theatre development with particular sensitivity to the history and culture of the Caribbean region especially T&T.”

©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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