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The Calypso Girls—Fresh as daisies

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Christine Johnston’s, The Calypso Girls, encored over the Mother’s Day weekend billed as a Bagasse Company comedic farce with a “mature” touch. Instead, audiences met an experienced cast, fresh as daisies, with a script that enlivened a pretty predictable storyline.

On show was not only young Brendon O’Brien’s youthful direction, but Johnston’s wit and skill as producer-turned-writer, with accompanying skills on stage to match.

A granny, three ageing, horny women and a smartman/womaniser offering love. What can possibly go wrong?

Though Penelope Spencer’s comedic timing faltered at times, her portrayal of the stoic, matriarchal Clementina (no doubt a friend of Sparrow’s Jean, Dinah and Rosita) kept dizzying pace with Johnston’s demanding narrative.

Fellow veteran, Susan Hannays-Abraham, had played the part during the first run in April.

The prolific Cecilia Salazar, playing Ethel (as in Superblue’s 1981 Road March), was her usual comfortable onstage self and who does not want to hear Patti-Anne Ali (Explainer’s Lorraine) sing “Fire, fire, in she wire, wire” all night long in her uppity accent before eventually dying of laughter?

Marie Chan-Durity, last notably seen in Holmes and Spence’s Carnival Medea and the film Bazodee, was gullible, faith-filled (Calypso?) Rose in the story. She was amazing.

Errol Fabien wonders in his notes as a member of the cast how Johnston could have sought him out as “an old man in the play.” But he also has little difficulty portraying smartman (King?) Austin who preys on the vulnerabilities of three lonely “mature” women.

The storyline has few unexpected twists and turns, save for the very end, but clever storytelling always has a way of wringing new life from the mundane. Here is where the writer’s craft, together with enterprising directing can make important differences.

There was thus little need for much physical humour, and the resort to open slapstick was few and far between—though Fabien’s emergence from the kitchen with a silver rice bowl over his head and a priest’s gown around his waist is hard to match and melongenes/eggplants will never be the same again.

Staged at the Central Bank Auditorium, the facility’s two-level setup provided stage manager, Regina Seabrun, with options the main set (yet another living-room) could not offer.

Award-winning Johnston explains in her producer-writer’s note that the play began “as an idea germinated by a conversation with Cecilia (Salazar) who lamented the fact that as actors get older, parts get harder to come by.”

“This seems so unfair, since as actors age, their skill is honed and their experience is invaluable.”

The credentials of the cast combined with a bright script and skilful directing to make The Calypso Girls an enjoyable and memorable theatre experience. At no time did age appear to be an obstacle to all of this.

Indeed, not much can go wrong with Salazar, Spencer, Ali, Durity and Fabien on stage. Add the Johnston pen and O’Brien direction and the recipe for a grand time is set. Bravo, Bagasse!


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