Features

‘Omeros….What a Circus!’

Second of two parts.

By JD Douglas

Nobel Literature Laureate Derek Walcott
Nobel Literature Laureate Derek Walcott

SO what can local audience paying their hard earned dollar expect ? Every play translates differently every time it is staged. Every audience is different from the previous and the forthcoming. The best guide, we have so far are the British based St. Lucians, who have seen the production. St. Lucians in the audience, were on top of the play in more ways than one. First they were proud to be associated with something, very St. Lucian as the work of Sir Derek Walcott and would go on to demonstrate their approval. For others, this would be the first time, they would have actually attested to the lyrical words of Walcott come alive on a Theatrical Stage, notwithstanding the spellbinding performance of both actors Joseph Marcell and Joan Lylia with all the technical production values. The ever exuberant Joseph Marcell was the magic. He of course is better known across the Globe as Geoffrey the Butler, in “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

Some of the dialogue incorporates patois or creole.As soon as the Actors deliver their words, the St. Lucians in the audience were there to respond with laughter and guffaws. What was obvious is that some things just don’t translate. English translations of what was said in patios/creole did not hit the spot. No such problem then at the National Cultural Centre.

When Marcell uttered the word “Salop” at his co-actor on stage,the audience were in hysterics. Try explaining to a non St. Lucian what exactly was meant and the many ways “Salop” can be used in conversation and you begin to get the point.

To Walcott’s tag of being the finest writer in the English Language, Omeros provides the evidence of accolade to his being the finest “word smith” on the planet. Walcott’s clever interplay of words and phrases had many a clever dick, scratching their heads of his intention. A perfect example, is the interplay of the words, canoe and cannot (canot), for while many Looshans nodded in the writer’s cleverness at the end, others were asking the St. Lucians, why did they laugh/react at that point. Of the many lessons I have learnt, on this journey, pronouncements on the Tourist product as an example, and his warnings seem 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 we are stronger and greater than what sets us apart. In this case, the work of Sir Derek Walcott is certainly one of the strongest unifiers, if not the greatest unifier for all St. Lucians.

The idea of the production actually started in a bar in Dennery. There is one name you may not have heard of but without him there would be no Omeros Stage production. I refer to Shakespeare’s Globe Executive producer Tom Bird. We were having a drink and he had just tasted his first Spice Rum. He had already fallen madly in love with the local Piton brew. It was all work, trust me, we were cooling off before the opening night of King Lear at Fond d’Or. (Someone should put a sign outside the bar, saying, “ Omeros the stage production started here.” Something even the proprietors of the bar may not be are aware of.)

He started his question with, “Do you know Derek Walcott?” “ Why? ” I enquired. “Do you think, he would be interested in the Globe staging a reading of Omeros ? ” “With whom? ” I asked. “ Well, Joseph, of course”. In my initial conversation with Sir Derek, he made it quite clear that he would be more interested in a Stage Production with Music. A very well known local Musician was mentioned, but unfortunately due to diary clashes, he could not participate. Soon after, at a sumptuous lunch at Walcott’s residence, in attendance was Joseph Marcell and Bill Buckhurst and the passion was ignited.

A few days earlier, I had joked with Bill that one day he would direct one of Walcott’s play. Ah yeah he had said, and pigs might fly. I have yet to remind Bill of the historic conversation at the Bay Gardens Hotel. Bill, if you are reading this I am predicting you will one day direct the cinematic version of Omeros. Over lunch, I made copious notes which would form principles of the agreement to present to Shakespeare’s Globe. The document would land on the desk of Rosie Townsend of the Sam Wannamaker Theatre. To use one overrated phrase the rest is History. We can now all fast forward to May 3.

There will be fanfare, all right, but justified, they see me arriving, crowd will be there, so will Sir Derek’s many disciples, many sun burnt tourists, the movers and shakers; Government Minister or two who would rather be somewhere else. Time to make some personalities, The smart among the young, and of course in the middle of all this, the ring master himself; sitting like the Rock Star that he is, saying very little, letting his presence fuel the National Cultural Centre, like only Sir Derek can. I am one of the many, who can’t wait. Omeros! Oh what a Circus.

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