From novel to stage

by Leigh-Ann Worrell

entcastleofmyskinrehersalIt was another rehearsal night.

In the ground floor of the Clement Payne Cultural Centre, actors are sitting in circles with scripts in hand, going over scenes with colleagues or trying to memorise lines before going through blocking and movements with co-director Cicely Spencer-Cross.

In the corner, members of the Cavite Chorale sing “today is a funny night” barely above a whisper, working hard to get their parts right.

Spencer-Cross paces across the room ensuring it all comes together, giving cues to the singers and the actors – and even envisioning the fluid movements of the Dancin’ Africa troupe.

It is all for the 60th anniversary of one of the island’s finest creations, George Lamming and his In the Castle of My Skin.

“It is the first and most famous novel it was groundbreaking and… it is a novel that really explored the Barbadian and by extension speech patterns the critical issues facing the Caribbean people in the 1940s and it is regarded as one of the cornerstone novels of the edifice of West Indian culture,” President of the Clement Payne Movement David Comissiong told Bajan Vibes during Monday’s rehearsal.

The presentation comes off on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Walcott Warner Theatre, Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination.

This is a part of the Movement’s annual celebration of National Heroes’ Day. Two months in the making, the multimedia presentation will feature actors of Matthew Murrell’s Yardie Boy Theatre along with Tony Thompson, dance, film and singing. Anthony Gabby Carter is the musical director.

Lamming will be in Barbados to accept an appreciation award and give remarks to close the night.

“He is not one who believes in the concept of hero… [so] we have agreed that we will not be putting the emphasis on GL the hero, the hero will be the book… and what we will present Mr. Lamming with is a Clement Payne appreciation award.”

Comissiong explained he picked extracts of the book which he felt encapsulated its main themes, including the deficiencies of the colonial educational system, ambivalent attitudes towards blackness and acceptance of our value as a people. Additionally, the 1937 riots will be a pivotal part of Saturday’s presentation.

He believed it was necessary to highlight Lamming and his seminal work, especially since not many people seemed to know about it.

“It could be considered the national novel of Barbados and therefore it is of tremendous value to the people of Barbados. Unfortunately, many Barbadians are not familiar with this very important work… It says that we have not been doing a good job of exposing our own people to literature and heritage and we are not giving our young people our heritage. Then we wonder why our young people are not rooted and why they are not swept away by every passing whim and fancy coming out of North America and Europe and Jamaica. We can’t blame our young people if we have not given them our heritage,” the Pan-Africanist asserted.

Therefore, he made a special call for students to attend the free event.

“This novel is saying some very important things about us as a people and a nation so it is very important that young people know this work and it will give them a perspective on past and the kind of nation we ought to be,” Commissiong said.

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