Sunday, September 18, 2005

I don't know if the bulk of people, including Trinidadians, really believe that genius can be manifested.

I guess that's Vidia's bitch: that they don't know what they have, and how can they encourage it if they don't know what they have. The same belt of society we're talking about: people who could give more patronage, who could be less interested in the latest paperback. I don't know what critic is going to write about the play at what level.

I think if I lived here I'd be more distressed. I can see a great despondency here, from the artists or writers who want to do something. But then, is that very different from London or Paris? I have rage against the stupidity of Caribbean governments; but [not] despondency. [In the situation], anger is a healthy thing to have.

-- Derek Walcott, interviewed in today's Express by B.C. Pires (whose book Thank God It's Friday I've just been reading again, trying to write a short review). The play Walcott refers to, of course, is the musical Steel, which opened at Queen's Hall last Tuesday night. The reviews (Lisa Allen-Agostini in the Guardian, review not online, and Terry Joseph in the Express) were, let's say, mixed, but on opening night the mostly well-heeled audience gave the production a standing ovation, and it's announced today that the show's run has been extended. Steel's biggest problem, I think, is not its length (over three hours) or the historical inconsistencies (playwright's prerogative), but the music; and that's obviously a crippling problem for a musical. Steel doesn't sound Trinidadian; the melodies fight against the syntax of the lyrics; & two of the climactic numbers, one meant to be a winning Panorama "bomb", the other the soca hit with which the character Growler makes his comeback, are musically entirely misconceived. So much effort from a clearly hardworking, hard-singing cast, producing so little emotional effect; if only (I found myself thinking) Andre Tanker were still around to work his arranger's magic! And I can't talk about Steel without mentioning the particularly strong performance by Conrad Parris, an exceptional young actor (who I happen to have gone to school with) who should by now be playing leading roles from the major repertoire, if only we had "real" theatre here (& so back to where we began: see Walcott's interview).

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