Hilary Nicholson and Nadean Rawlins, actresses in Fallen Angel and Devil Concubine

BY 2024, acclaimed Jamaican stage play Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine could be making it to the big screen.

Moves are afoot by local actress, director and producer Nadean Rawlins to bring this work, which was originally presented in 1987 at the Dennis Scott Theatre at the School of Drama of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, to the silver screen. She recently acquired the rights to the work through her agency Raw Management.

“We are currently at script development and have submitted the treatment into international film labs for consideration this year. We want to be in pre-production in mid-2023 and production by 2024,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

“This is one of Jamaica's brilliant and nuanced plays and a story that places issues of ageism and abandonment at the forefront. Too often these issues and stories that focus on elderly characters, especially female characters, are neglected,” she continued.

Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine is described as a dramatic comedy that deftly and sometimes humorously explores ageing, isolation, loss, and survival. The original two-hander script follows the story of Katie and Lettie who are trapped by destitute circumstances and their inner demons in an abandoned colonial mansion. Seemingly separated by their cultural and racial divide and their desire to be (literally) at each other's throats, the elderly women also find similarities, friendship and solace as they are forced to face certain realities of their past and present between bouts of madness.

Despite the serious subject matter and representation of marginalised characters, Rawlins is convinced that the story will resonate with a wide audience. During her stint at the renowned IFFR Rotterdam Lab in 2020, Rawlins, who also played Lettie in the play's 2008 staging, thought that Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine was the perfect story that could translate into a film with international appeal.

Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine shows the contrast of class relations and generational prejudices and tears at phobias and stereotypes. It shines a light on the dark subject of ageism and its effect and shows the existential abandonment and dilemma of these women. All themes and issues that will resonate with a global audience,” Rawlins shared.

As for the cast, Rawlins noted that she is already eyeing local and international acting talent for the film but is not prepared to divulge any names at this time. And while she would love to reprise her role, she prefers to cast others.

“My acting days are certainly not behind me, as a matter a fact, being a film producer/director has peaked my interest even more for the next acting role. For Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine it is important to cast actors close to the age of the characters giving them the opportunity to not 'act' the part but to be brought to the point of being overwhelmed by their own fears, judgements, and mortality.”

“It is purely Jamaican yet will present a different perspective from past Jamaican films and as a two-hander, it would be an amazingly layered and practical contained film,” she said.

The project recently advanced to the second-round shortlist for Cinemart 2022.

“I'm delighted that The Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine will be adapted as a film by Nadean Rawlins and RAW Management,” stated playwright Patricia Cumper who was part of the original production.

“It explores universal questions through the very specific relationship between two women on the margins of society and the way their interaction is poisoned by race and redeemed by friendship. It is also engaging and often funny,” said Cumper.

Co-creator of the play, Eugene Williams, added that “We the creators of [the play] are extremely excited about the possibility of the play being adapted for the screen. The play is one of the most produced Caribbean plays across the region and in 'temperate foren' since its creation. We never expected more. And now this! We trust that the funders of the art of the big screen will find value in the play's compelling characters, particular story and its thematic significance.”

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

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