It was a night to remember, the opening performance of Derek Walcott’s Epic dramatised poem Omeros. A strong two hander cast of Joseph Marcell and Joan Iyiola directed by Bill Buckhurst.
The three provided the on stage magic. JD Douglas had been asked by the Globe to stage a St. Lucian night. Well more a St. Lucian presence, for all the right reasons. As JD reflected “we need to have a St. Lucian presence in as many British institutions and decision making forum as possible, lest we become just passive consumers. It’s no good saying wonderful things about Walcott if we as St. Lucians do not know his work”.
St. Lucians and friends of St. Lucia were able to purchase their tickets at a prior agreed discount rate brokered by Douglas and were allowed to sit in pre designated ring fenced area of the Sam Wannamaker theatre.
The play although inspired by Homer’s gigantic saga is not a translation or a modern version. More a recast in a temporary West Indian setting. The characters of Achille, Hector and Helen are the embodiment of St. Lucia psyche and temperament. Philocette with his festering wound is a metaphor of so much that is wrong with St. Lucia. Helen is the maid of retired British Army Office Major Denis Plunkett and his wife Maud. Set in the Village of Gross Islet historical facts and events are blended into a studied “poetic landscape”
The various story lines are narrated and dramatised by the two actors Joseph Marcell and Joan Iyiola, with passion and dexterity. Their characters’ have dreams, desires, soul. There is a reality and a vulnerability. They are you, they are me they are the sum experience of many things. As one St. Lucian currently serving in her Majesty’s Armed Forces was overheard saying “When Marcell cut the roots with his cutlass in anger and he spoke the words, now you know what it’s like to be without roots, that really resonated with me, I felt that sentiment over and over.” Yes pure theatre to move the individual as theatre ought to be.
The St. Lucians in the audience were on top of the play in more ways than one. They were proud to be associated with something very St. Lucian as the work of Derek Walcott and would go on to demonstrate their approval. For many this would be the first time they would see the international recognized Joseph Marcell on stage. He of course is better known the world over as Geoffrey the Butler in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Thespis from which the word thespian is derived, is credited as being the first person to introduce dialogue to the stage in 6th century BC. He was also an actor of note. His many disciples’ including the Stanislavsky school of acting proclaim that a play is not actors, a play is not a script, it is not a director moving actors on stage. But the synergy of what is happening on stage and the reverberation and reactions of the audience. Well by this token this certain was a magical event and gigantic play.
Noted in the audience on the night was the celebrated writer Ben Okra. After the play he was more than willing to speak of the impact of the performance.
Finally JD Douglas, who organised the evening said, “the dramatisation in many ways is a mirror for all St. Lucians on Walcott’s pronouncement on the tourist product as an example, and his warnings seems to have gone unheeded when you think of the Black Bay fiasco. The biggest satisfaction for me was seeing that what unites us as a people is stronger and greater than what sets us apart. In this case the work of Derek Walcott is certainly one of the strongest unifiers if not the greatest unifier for all St. Lucians. The manifestation is the great success of, St. Lucian Night at Shakespeare’s Globe.”
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