Arts & Culture

Skip to Miss Lou

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 03, 2019

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As the centenary celebrations continue for the life of renowned Jamaican folklorist Louise Bennett-Coverley, better known as Miss Lou, younger Jamaicans got a chance to learn more about her through a theatrical production entitled Skip To My Lou - Lou, which ran for five days at the Coke Memorial Methodist Church Hall in the heart of downtown Kingston last week.

Written by Amina Blackwood-Meeks, the production chose to examine the early life of Miss Lou using biographical data interspersed with her own dramatic works. Presented by the Centre for Value based Arts, which strongly believes it is the responsibility of the older generations to transfer the knowledge of our past to Jamaican youngsters, the production falls into the 100 days of celebration for the cultural icon.

Skip To My Lou — Lou draws on the skills of dramatist Faith D'Aguilar, award-winning actress Deon Silvera along with Blackwood-Meeks, as well as a trio of actors from the centre to bring the work to life. While all have their moments, it is Silvera with her natural command of stage and the Miss Lou vibe who was particularly engaging and entertaining for the students from the St Theresa Preparatory School who were present on the day the Jamaica Observer sat in on the performance.

Silvera is such a natural with the material. In fact, she lists Body Beautiful, which is included in this production, as among her favourite 'dialects' from the Miss Lou anthology. Seeing her bring the piece to life in this instance one can readily see why it is a favourite of hers. Her skills at physical comedy was showcased when she performed Rough-Riding Tram, who amused the young audience.

A technical difficulty with a malfunctioning microphone prevented D'Aguilar from making a desired impact. At times there was a total disconnect as the audience could not hear her lines which were critical given her role as the narrator. The impact of her performance of Cass Cass, another Miss Lou staple, was lost on the audience, due to the fact that they could not hear.

Blackwood-Meeks' Bredda Anancy story found favour with the young audience who were engaged and impressed with their ability to complete the standard closing signature of such a folk tale — Jack Mandora... mi nuh choose none.

The producers must be commended for keeping the production to just about an hour, given the short attention span of the target audience. That said, more attention could have been given to meeting the youngsters halfway in telling the story by incorporating more of the technology with which they are accustomed. One of the students in particular sighed repeatedly with boredom, ultimately vocalising, “like seriously, this is really boring.”

One understands that sharing aspects of culture not considered popular is a real challenge. Add a younger audience and the degree of difficulty is amplified. However, there is no doubt that our creative community is able to overcome these challenges and it is the resources that need to be put behind such yeoman efforts.


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