Country Wedding serves a dose of culture
Jamaica’s rich cultural history has long been fodder for creative forms of expression. However, in recent times the practices of old have made way for the modern. It is therefore refreshing when something from the past turns up on local stages.
Such is Dahlia Harris’s latest theatrical production Country Wedding.
The piece is set in 1954, in the rural district of Grateful Valley. Like all such communities, Grateful Valley has its fair share of characters, and Harris is able to capture same and the traditions of a bygone era in this work for which she, in fact, performs quadruple duties as producer, director, writer and actor.
The flow of Country Wedding is spiked with loads of cultural references. Harris has said that the Miss Lou Archives at the National Library, musicologist and historian Marjorie Whylie, and other sources helped her accurately bring Country Wedding to the stage. These references, which include appropriate folk music as well as traditional dance — maypole and camp-style quadrille — showcase our cultural heritage. The cake parade is a treat, especially for audience members.
With comedy, social issues, music, movement and colour, Country Wedding almost takes on the feel of the matriarch of local stage productions, the National Pantomime.
Country Wedding is centred around Maas Aaron, skilfully played by theatre veteran Holier Johnson, whose nephew Glen More (Kevoy Burton) has returned to Grateful Valley after studying in London. However, Aaron’s plans for his nephew are interrupted by Annabelle (Shantol Jackson), his British fiancÃ©e who hates everything about rural life and wishes to return to London ASAP.
Maas Aaron and the village mout’, Nella (Harris) hatch a plan to keep Glenmore in Grateful Valley by throwing a real country wedding.
Like with any family gathering, there are twists and turns in this story and the road is not always smooth. What ensues is two hours of drama and rib-tickling comedy.
The cast of Country Wedding delivers. The statuesque Harris has developed the ability to use her physical presence to contribute to the life of the character. This, coupled with great lines, makes her memorable in this role. Deon Silvera can never be a wallflower in any production. As Mable she is able to command her scenes as only she can. Johnson has Maas Aaron down to a T. Younger actors Burton and Jackson give creditable performances, especially in holding down the British accents for as long as needed. Young members of the Jamaica Youth Theatre Romaine Roache, Anthony Mercurius, Dacoda Mitchell and Jonique Francis, add to the strength of this ensemble.