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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Guyana’s unique, dynamic culture on show in `All in Wan’

By Neil Marks
Howard Lorrimer and Ajay Baksh rehearse for All in Wan 2

WHAT do you get when you take all the odds and ends and the best of the best in Guyanese theatre, music, and dance? The answer: All in Wan!

The mega production, dialed up for the country’s 40th Independence anniversary by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company, rings in at the National Cultural Centre this Friday for an explosive performance down memory lane.

Guyanese musical extraordinaire Dave Martins, has spared “not a blade of grass” in putting his pen to a potpourri of Guyanese culture of the past 40 years, and Ron Robinson has the task of bringing the script to stage.

So, as a 40-year-old man, played by Howard Lorrimer, gets “sweet” with his three friends (Michael Ignatius, Kirk Jardine, Ajay Baksh) reminiscing on his life, what will actually come to life on the stage would be a two-hour panorama reflecting, as Martins put it, “the vibrant and dynamic culture that is unique to Guyana”.

Hearing of the `Guyana Baboo’ Terry Gajraj, the flautist Keith Waithe, the African Congo Nya drummers, the Indian musicians from the Cove and John Ashram, the Amerindian dancers, the Classique Dance Company, the Nrityageet dancers, the Tin Cup Band, the Marigold Singers, the Ruimveldt Boys Choir, the Mighty Rebel, Lady Tempest, the Masqueraders of the Jokers Wild, and a Mash Band, you know it will be big!

Continuing from our feature two Sunday’s ago, we will this week clue you in a little bit more on some of those who make up the `All in Wan’ pot.

We’ve told you of how Keith Waithe plans to use elements of jazz, Afro and Indo motifs /rhythms, his vocal gymnastic techniques, including playing the beautiful melody of his flute, to re-create the evergreen Indian classic, Suhani Raat. You also know of the imaginative set designed by ace designer Henry Muttoo, who intends to transform the National Cultural Centre stage into an elaborate bamboo grove with intriguing lighting effects. Today, we’ll feature other personalities in the production.

Ajay Baksh
`All in Wan’ sees the return to the stage of Ajay Baksh, the former GTV Editor-in-chief, now Communications Coordinator at Conservation International.

It has been a while since his first gig, `Awe Society 2’. Remember him from `Tourist Touchdown’ and `Driving Miss Daisy’? He ended a good run in theatre in `Ecstasy’ eight years ago. Now he’s back.

“I play the role of a 45-year-old Indian man who, along with his friends, catch up for a drink, and they discuss issues in Guyana as it turns 40,” he says.

“This return to the stage was not planned, nor did I ever envision returning to the stage. However, when one finds a script as important and interesting as this one is, you feel almost a sense of duty to be part of it,” he told the Sunday Chronicle.

“I have entered the production late and I am working on learning all my lines and moves in the short time left. While this is a challenge, it is not impossible especially given the fact that I am surrounded by a competent, helpful and very professional team who will help me get my act together,” he added.

Ajay admires how the entire team is working together beyond the normal call of duty to make this production the high point of Guyana's 40th anniversary and an event “people will be talking about long after it has closed.”

Terry Gajraj

Terry Gajraj

Terry Gajraj, the Guyana Baboo is in the line-up to provide non-stop entertainment in `All in Wan’.

Surrounded by a family of singers, from his father, grandfather, uncle and others, he began his singing career as a youngster back home in Fyrish Village, Corentyne.

But singing Bhajans in the mandirs could not cut it if he was going to make it big, so he pursued all the opportunities he could get, starting with his uncle and the Dil Bahar orchestra. His calling was for the chutney/soca genre, following in the footsteps of his idol, Sundar Popo.

Having more than 15 CDs to his name and more than 150 songs to his credits, Terry Gajraj is one of Guyana's most recorded artists to date. Not only is he a performer, but a professionally trained musician who writes some of his lyrics.

He has performed in the Caribbean, USA, England, Suriname and Holland. He has represented Guyana as the only Chutney singer at most of the major Carnivals in the world, such as those in Trinidad, Miami, Toronto and London.

"I like to see the smiles on people's face when I sing a Guyana Baboo, and have them sing along," he said in an interview posted on his website.

There is no doubt that he will get loads of that in `All In Wan’.

GEMS Theatre Productions
GEMS Theatre Productions is contracted to put on `All in Wan’. It is Gem Madhoo Nascimento’s biggest engagement since and she is nervous, but excited.

She founded her company in February 2002, opening with Trinidadian, Hollywood, Broadway and television actor Sullivan Walker in Guyana.

Since then, there has been no turning back. She has staged 18 productions to date, ranging from classical concerts, jazz concerts, comedy, drama, including the internationally renowned ‘Vagina Monologues’, and children’s plays.

The famous Talk Tent from Trinidad with Paul Keens Douglas has now become an annual feature in the theatre calendar in February.

In June 2005, GEMS started another such production ‘Laugh Tent’ with Richardo Keens Douglas and other artists from the local scene and the Caribbean. This will be staged annually.

Gem herself brings to `All in Wan’ almost 32 years of experience, playing leading managerial roles for approximately 160 stage, television and radio productions.

She was co-founder and Director of the Theatre Company from 1981-2002. She served as Production Manager for its 125 productions, stage managed most of them and managed all its 10 overseas tours up until 2001.

She has attended playwright’s conferences at the Eugene O’Neil Theatre Centre in Connecticut, workshops in the Caribbean and was the secretary for The Theatre Information Exchange (TIE), which was based in Barbados.

She also holds a director’s portfolio with Public Communications Consultants as its Finance Director.

Kirk Jardine
Kirk Jardine plays one of Lorrimer’s friends in telling the story of Guyana in the last 40 years in `All in Wan’.

He is a “baby” on the theatre scene in Guyana. His debut in theatre was in 2003 as Chief in `One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ which was later followed in 2004 with ‘For Better for Worse’ as the character, Grizzly.

He was co-host alongside Habeeb Khan and Lyndon `Jumbie’ Jones on the TV show Stress relief.

Since then, he has been a regular feature as a stand –up comedian at the Upscale restaurant `Comedy Night Show’ and has been performing in Linden, Berbice and other outlying areas.

His most recent performance was in Churamanie Bissoondial’s ‘Epilepsia’ in May, followed by GEMS Theatre Productions ‘Right Bed Wrong Husband’.

Michael Ignatius
The “You want him to disfigure this creation” line from `Two’s a Crowd’ shot youngster Michael Ignatius to instant fame. His cantankerous character put a new twist to hilarity in Guyanese theatre and since then he has become one the best loved newcomers on stage in Guyana.

Ron Robinson
Ron Robinson has the job to make sure that `All In Wan’ comes out the way Dave Martins envisions it: non-stop entertainment with dance, music, comedy, drama, and spectacle ranging from Diwali to Mashramani and everything in between.

With his impressive resume, Ron seems just the man to put the act together. He started drama at the age of 10 in `HMS Pinafore’ back at Queens College some 45 years ago. He is undoubtedly one of Guyana’s leading theatre practitioners.

He was chairman of the Theatre Guild for many years before branching out to collaborate and start the Theatre Company in 1981, of which he chairman and managing director. He was once described by a newspaper critic as the ‘Alfred Hitchcock’ of Guyana.

His directorial skills range from thrillers, dramas, comedies, musicals and comedy-drama having acted in no less than 90 stage productions to date.

He has directed all the Link Shows (20) to date and has been awarded more `Best Director’ and `Best Actor’ awards than any other thesp in Guyana today.

Ron has spearheaded all of the Theatre Company’s overseas tours. A founder member of CARIBUSTE (Caribbean/US Theatre Exchange), he has attended several workshops and conferences in the USA and Caribbean.

`All in Wan’ opens on May 26 with a gala for invitees only. Public performances will be on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28. A complimentary matinee for schoolchildren and elderly residents in ‘homes’ will be held on Sunday at 13:00 hrs.

Guyana Chronicle

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