Time was not so long ago when Derek Walcott would ride into town from Trinidad or Boston, and the local thespian community would crawl out of the woodwork, pull out their best lines and hit the town hall stage.
The likes of Sixtus Charles, Arthur Jacobs, Kenneth Monplaisir and MacDonald Dixon – some still with memories and breath to spare – would gladly sing the praises of those golden pre-television days, when progressive Caribbean people studied literature and history and still wrote proper English.
In that enlightened era of post-colonial self-discovery, there were annual seasons of theatre. Summers were crammed with recitals, plays and dance performances. Newspapers carried critical reviews and repertoires ranged effortlessly from Samuel Beckett and Tennessee Williams, to Shakespeare and the Brothers Walcott.
Today, it’s different… or is it? Still no dedicated theatre space. No more scholarships now than there were back then. No career path to speak of for actors, dancers, writers. So few reviews of any kind.
Thirty-five years after independence, we should not have to wonder how far we have really come? But truth is, as Walcott says remembering his own early outrage, the Caribbean really does not deserve the quality of artists it some how manages to engender.
Not to worry. Come August 8th, 9th and 10th we can all dress up like the excellent actors we are, and sip champagne at Samaans Park – another temporary space not unlike the National Cultural Tent at Barnard Hill.
There we will enjoy the latest Walcott masterpiece, O Starry Starry Night, and witness the work of a man whose creative genius and love of homeland manage to transcend his disappointment at three and a half decades of flaccid public policy toward the creative sector.
An ironic twist of fate: in that same week, Saint Lucia will host the 16th Triennial Conference of the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language studies. Over 200 delegates – including professors, publishers and poets – will visit the land of Walcott, delighted that
the great man himself
will not only appear in their midst, but will stage his newest work while they are in town.
O Starry Starry Night first opened at the Lakeside Theatre in Essex UK earlier this year and was acclaimed as a highly poetic recording of one of the most notorious moments in the history of art: Paul Gauguin’s 1888 visit to a troubled Vincent van Gogh at the Yellow House in Arles, France.
The Saint Lucia production will feature the original Essex cast flown in from the UK, Paris and Trinidad. They will be joined by sole St Lucian actor, Natalie LaPorte, who plays the pivotal role of Lotte – a prostitute with positively artistic aspirations.
LaPorte has previously toured with the Nobel Laureate and recently featured in excerpts from Joker of Seville, staged by the Mexican Embassy and local producers, Landmark Events.
Thanks largely to Landmark Events, Warwick Productions and presenting sponsors First National Bank and LIME, O Starry Starry Night will open with a champagne gala at Samaans Park, Thursday, August 8 at 8 p.m.
All performances are open to the public and tickets are available from Landmark Events, LIME outlets and Sunshine Bookshops. Email reservations can be made at email@example.com.
So by all means be there when the stars come out at Samaans Park, and if it means that much to you, make some noise in the ear of your favourite minister of culture, education, health, creative industries or finance. Pick one. Tell him his job would be so much easier if we all lived in a society where more people loved, understood and participated in the art and science of creative thinking and expression.