On February 13, 2014, I attended a show put on by the Quilt Performing Arts Company held at The Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI Mona. This show was like, yet unlike, any other that the group had put on. Well, from my vantage point. The show was given the name RELEASE. When I first heard the name of the show, I was like “what the heck kinda title is this?” However, after speaking to Odain Murray, one of the principal members of the group, the meaning became clear. According to Murray, RELEASE means letting go of whatever is comfortable to you, pushing the boundaries, daring to step outside of familiar territory. So the members not only performed but had a hand in the choreography of the pieces. Commendable! I must say, it was refreshing to see the growth that Quilt has undergone since its birth. Anyways, let’s dive into the show.
SOUNDS OF THE TREE – “Like trees, my people have been uprooted and have found themselves years later…hanging from them”
The show opened with this number, depicting a period of enslavement. We saw a very distraught woman, played by Patrice Anderson, mourning the loss of a slave that had just been hung. Once again, Dennis Scott’s – Epitaph was used to as the starter to what we could expect to be an emotional piece. Some would say it was a heavy start to a show but if I knew anything about Quilt, this was intentional. As I sat in the audience, all I could do at this point was wipe my tears as I felt the pain of the period being portrayed here. The words, Rope, Skin, Fire, Sweat, Tears, Burn and Scream resonated with me throughout this performance. It was as if I was performing with the company once more. Once again, good job!
NOISES IN MY BLOOD – “It’s as if they were speaking from beneath my skin. I did not understand, so I just called it noise.”
After such a dreary piece, one could have only hoped for something lighter. But that was just wishful thinking. Quilt explored a different side to the whole ancestral debate. Noises In My Blood, ( my first time seeing this piece) had me speechless. I felt like I was denser than Iridium as I could not at that point understand what this piece was trying to say. With the use of multimedia, an exceptional addition to the performances, we were introduced to a young man (played by Lemar Archer), who seemed like he was running away from who/what he was. The “noises” in his blood seemed to be spirits of his ancestors, trying to get him to accept who he is.
In the picture above, Tiffany Thompson, is seen here singing Rafiki Mourns (taken from The Lion King; scene where Mufasa dies, leaving his son Simba alone). At first I didn’t understand what was happening. I mean, I thought there must have been some other meaning to this piece that I didn’t get. Thompson did a wonderful job with this song and if you are familiar with the story of The Lion King, you’ll be able to understand the relevance of this song to the overall theme of Noises In My Blood. Quilt, thank you for this piece. I can say it opened my eyes to things I probably overlooked.
REFLECTIONS OF RED: A Bleeding Nation – “She placed his shirt in the water. It bled; she wept”
Seeing this title in the programme for the night, I thought to myself, “Please, not Jar of Hearts…AGAIN”. I was proven wrong. This piece closed off the first half of the show and can I tell you, I loved every minute of it. First, let me commend Roxan Webber for what, to me, was the best I’ve ever seen her emote. It was as if she fully immersed herself in the piece. BRILLIANT!
What was interesting to me was the addition of Jean Small, from what I heard, is a brilliant actor and playwright in Jamaica. She recited a poem, written by Director, Rayon Mclean which bore the title Monday Morning. This was such a fantastic move on Quilt’s part as her presence on stage was just added a new element to the piece. Her delivery of Mclean’s poem was the first time I’ve ever really listened to it in depth, having known the director for quite some time.
The protagonist in Monday Morning was a weeping mother who had to bury her son after his life was taken. “Khaki” was used throughout the poem to show the variety of ways the material could be used; as a school boy’s uniform and a police uniform. Small could be seen dragging the boy’s khaki on stage at different intervals, with the most vacant and lifeless expression one’s face could wear. Bravo! I’ve never heard of Jean Small before the show and after seeing her perform, I just had to do a mini research to find out who she was. She was superb. Well at least she was to me.
VESSEL – “Silence is not always peace of mind”
The second half of the show opened with a piece written and directed by Maya Wilkinson. The set for Vessels was the first of its kind I’ve seen in the theatre. This piece showed what happens when a new mother, Karen (played by Kalia Ellis), still experiencing postpartum depression, does when she is alone with her crying baby. I was so captivated by the piece and being the extremely smart person I am, I knew this lady, Karen, had killed her child within the first 5 minutes. Ellis brought something different to this role than what I’d previously seen of her. She dominated this piece. I could understand her her neurosis and her reason for committing the act.
“The baby just would not stop crying, so I squeezed, and the more the I squeezed, the more the crying stopped.” These were some of the words echoed by Ellis as she explained what happened, to her husband, played by Ramone Gordon. What a psycho!
LOVERSATION – “It is not that I don’t believe in love. I am still trying to learn what it is”
This was my favourite section of the night. When I saw what was being projected I couldn’t help but shed a few tears. I just love, Love. This section had three different takes on love which showcased the choreography of Roxan Webber, Rayon Mclean and the surprise of the night, for me, Odain Murray. If you knew Murray you too would probably be surprised, or not. I know what both Webber and Mclean are capable of, so I was most anxious about seeing Murray’s piece.
The picture is showing a glimpse into what Murray created. “Beneath Your Beautiful – Labrinth and Emeli Sande” was the song of choice. Jasmine Taylor and Kemar Brown played the lead in what was a beautiful love story. We saw the struggles “couples” face in trying to expose themselves to each other. The two wanted to reveal themselves but the fear of rejection was too great as was accentuated by the actors in the background, who, after revealing themselves to the one they loved, were instantly shunned. The story was so well written in the body language of the dancers that my heart just melted. Fear keeps us from what could possibly be the best relationship one could have. The piece ended with these words “How about we make this official?” I was instantly brought to tears. It seemed that the entire story being told, was done via social media/ text. What an interesting way to express what seems to be causing a barrier in relationships today as well as why people are so fearful of letting others see beneath their beautiful! Encore!
Mclean’s piece was another heart wrenching one. He used Nancy Sinatra’s – Bang Bang to tell his story. I can’t put into words how amazing this was. It was so riveting and the emotions, so raw and uncut. I mean, you couldn’t act those type of emotions if you didn’t have some connection to the piece. The relationships shown were so tumultuous yet the couples couldn’t seem to leave other. Kanye West’s – Say You Will was the other song that was used to end the story. It spoke about partners doing the things they said they would in a relationship. In essence, ACTION instead of WORDS. This was a side to Mclean I’d never seen before and I think it’s simply brilliant. Dare I say, Mclean has gone soft?
OPEN CLOSED DOORS – “I will write my own story”
As I uttered when this piece was concluded, “I want to love it, I want to say something nice but I can’t”. This had got to be the moment I let my personal biases deter me from really enjoying this piece of art. Mind you, it was performed by an amazing cast comprised of 7 amazing women; Rasheen Roper, Kyesha Randall, Joylene Alexander, Kalia Ellis, Patrice Anderson, Tiffany Thompson & Sonishea McKenzie. I didn’t like this piece of what interpreted it’s approach to be. That is the only reason. I must say, after mulling things over, I then decided it wasn’t such a bad thing. How contradictory! Right?
After looking closely at this piece, I likened it to the topic of human trafficking and what young girls are subjected to when they put their trust in men. Men who had once promised to take care of them, or give them a career, only to become sex slaves for other men of power.
The ladies were livid and boiling with anger because they felt trapped by a power, a man’s power. We heard the awful things they were subjected to and even after “breaking free”, they felt powerless and returned to the life they detested. Hence, them being trapped in a revolving door.
FORCE – “I am the force that keeps the Blue Mountains standing”
The night ended on a lighter note with a piece that was about being Jamaican and wearing the name with pride or as Quilt said it “wid di black, green an’ gold, stamp pon wi chess”. The piece was all types of fun and had the audience cracking up. I’m guessing this was the purpose as the company seemed to be enjoying themselves quite a bit on stage. At one point I wanted to get up and join them, but then I remembered, this wasn’t my show.
You had to have been there to get the full experience. The show was all sorts of good and I am extremely proud of them. Quilt has come a long way. Since 2010, with just 7 members, to now having a huge company and gearing up for the Contacting The World international performing arts festival put on by Contact, to be held in Manchester, England this summer. All the best to the company and their amazing journeys which lie ahead.