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Monday, June 05, 2006

40th anniversary production evokes laughter, tears solemnity

By Neil Marks

Isaac Jerry, who led an expedition to plant the National Flag on Mount Ayangana on May 26, 1966 is honoured during the staging of the GT&T sponsored Independence production All in Wan.

SEASONED with reflections and memories and then put to fire in song and dance, costume, poetry, raps and rhythms, sights and sounds, All in Wan, wended its way through the past 40 years of Guyanese life evoking bellyful laughter, tear-filled eyes and sober thoughts of what keeps sustaining us at home – our vibrant and varied culture.
The Classique Dance Company excited the audience with this “cane cutter dance” at as part of the programme for All in Wan.

The distressing moments made you think you should have never put so much pepper in the pot “cause yo eye water guh run” but the pot would not have been complete without it. The ingenious comedy left you using your fingers to lick any remains in the plate. And, of course, the “bun-bun” was just as good as the rest of the meal.
Dave Martins was sure of what `All in Wan’ would achieve.

Dave Martins looks on with delight as his script for All in Wan is performed on stage.

He promised it would make you clap and laugh and jump, and maybe even shed a tear. It did all of that.

His script of the vibrant Guyanese culture over the past 40 years was brought to life on stage through Gem-Madhoo Nascimento’s vast experience in theatre production and the unstoppable prowess of Ron Robinson as Director.

The Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) commissioned Martins to write the production “to create moments of nostalgia in some of us, to cultivate awareness in others and generally to remind us that, despite everything, Guyana is ours to love and to build.”

It was GT&T’s gift to Guyana on the fortieth anniversary of the country’s Independence.

IT’S no use going in to ingredients for this pot; it was an All in Wan. Basically, what you do is that you find all that is digestible, throw it in a pot and set to boil.

The gala performance was staged on Independence Day itself, May 26, sort of a banquet of delicious dishes – metagee, roti and duck curry, callaloo, Iguana stew - for “the important people.”

No sooner had President Bharrat Jagdeo arrived than the tin cup band emerged from the foyer of the National Cultural Centre and into the auditorium.

Rhythm, rhythm: Chiney (Michael Ignatius) Archie (Howard Lorimer), Kaimchan (Ajay Baksh) and Geesh (Kirk Jardine) perform in All In Wan.

Tapping away their tin cups, the band made its way to the stage as Dave Martins’ `Rhythm, rhythm’ played. Accompanying them were the main performers of the night – Archie (Howard Lorimer), Geesh (Kirk Jardine), Kaimchan (Ajay Baksh) and Chiney (Michael Ignatius).
It was Archie’s birthday and the quartet already had “something” before tramping through the streets to his place for a celebration. When they settled down in his backyard and withdrew a bottle of XM rum, you knew it was going to be some serious “gyaff.”

They started off with one plain, simple truth, and that is that “plenty ting pass through dis country in de pas’ 40 years. It ain’t three cents ting.”

From that, they lunged into a hysterical, and at times, sober reflection, of what has happened in the country’s post-Independent history. But for the most part, it was a celebration of the things that make Guyanese happy at heart.

As the four reminisced about some of imaginative characters who are remembered for “Tryin’ a thing,” calypsonian Mighty Rebel took a “shot,” grabbed a microphone and told of all those who fit the category: If there’s “some kind o’ tricky business, the fella looking to swing, the contractor who build a stelling and it float away, the Georgetown clerk who buy a new truck and Hammie didn’t know, when the Army say it can’t find the guns, ‘dey only trying a ting.’”

Kaimchan is mesmerised by the “wicked” Classique dancers, putting members of the group on stage to a sizzling performance of African dance.

As the four sipped and moved on to the good Guyanese food, like metagee and roti, Geesh, who sported a good size stomach (real), changed the national motto to `One Nation, One People, One Belly’.

Ron Robinson was ace in his portrayal of an England-based Guyanese who sought peculiar English dishes from the Pegasus. The enterprising waitress, played by Nicola Moonsammy, found a Guyanese equivalent for each of the dishes.

The “fellas” next cracked jokes about an Indian national who was afraid that the Diwali lights from the diyas would blow up his gas station on the Eats Coast. That gave way to a performance by the Nadira and Indranie Shah Dance Troupe, who performed a tribute to the Hindu goddess of light.

The guys followed on, reflecting on how the different aspects of Guyanese cultures have developed and when fused make for a celebration of unity in diversity. This was aptly portrayed by the Classique dancers. First, one member of the group performed the Indian kathak dance to music from the Cove and John Ashram. Then, another member of the group performed an African dance to beats from the Congo Nya drummers. The music was blended and the two exchanged dances.

Dancers of the Indranie and Nadira Shah Dance Troupe perform a Diwali song as part of the programme for All in Wan.

This was followed by the showing of clips from a video by Mike Charles, showing the myriad waterfalls and waterways in the country. This was showed as Dave Martins’ `River come down’ played.

After that, the production took a poignant turn. Kaimchan and Archie reflect on the true spirit of Guyanese mothers and their love for their sons. They told familiar stories, of their mothers not sleeping until they got home at nights, however late it might have been. Then they reflected on all of those mothers who have seen their sons migrate in search of a better life for themselves and their relatives back home.

As Kaimchan talks of the agony on the face of a mother he saw embracing her son at the airport, just before his departure, Lianne Williams emerged on stage and rendered the soulful `Ow Bayta’. It was a moving tribute that resonated with not only the mothers, but the fathers in the audience.

“Nine long months ah carry yuh in me belly

Now you on de plane

Yuh chester drawer in de room sitting empty

No clothes dere again

Me and you planted bora and corailla

Livin’ Cove and John

Now as ah look in de yard and remember
All mi spirit gone.”

The Mighty Rebel joins Terry Gajraj on stage at the conclusion of All in Wan.

Kaimchan is overcome by his emotions and seeks to ease it by heading upstairs to get another bowl of ice. Archie goes with him.

Geesh thinks Archie’s birthday celebration is getting too “serious.” He talks about how the Guyanese who have gone overseas have indeed achieved a lot, becoming, for example, doctors and lawyers. “Some of them even become entertainers,” he says, and Terry Gajraj takes to the stage with `Guyanese Baboo’.

Another poignant moment of the evening followed when Isaac Jerry was elevated on a platform to take a bow as the man who led the expedition up Mount Ayangana to plant the national flag on Independence Day, 1966. He received tribute as the `Akawaio Man’ and Amerindian dancers added to the moment.

Soon thereafter, revellers in Mashramani costume celebrated to Rudy Grant’s `Mash in Guyana’.

After a brief intermission, the poem `Ah Dun wid Mash’ dramatised by Sheldon Braithwaite, well described the position Guyanese find themselves in the day after Mashramani – worn out and broke, and vowing never to tramp again. That is, until the bug bites them again the following year!

The highlight of the final session of the presentation was Keith Waithe’s rendition of the evergreen Indian classic movie song `Suhani Raat’. Using his flute, he transformed the song using Afro and Indian influences, using various techniques. He was helped by the Cove and John Ashram and the Congo Nya drummers. In the end, the stylised version of the song did not deviate from its poignant melody.

The presentation also paid tribute to renowned Guyanese of the past 40 for their contributions to national life, including former and late Presidents Dr. Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham, former President Mrs. Janet Jagan, late national poet Martin Carter, and renowned concert pianist Ray Luck.

Also featured on the programme were the Marigold Choir and the West Ruimveldt Boys Choir and the Joker’s Wild masquerade band.

The climax of the show was the singing of ‘All in Wan” by three-time calypso monarch, Lady Tempest.

Easter kite Jordanite, Diwali light, All in Wan

Mategee, duck curry, fricassee, All in Wan

Ballahoo, callaloo, guana stew, All in Wan

Koker door, greenheart floor, Atlantic shore, All in Wan

Cassava Bread, nappy head, iron bed, All in Wan

And of course, from a good All in Wan, how could you leave out the “bun bun?” When all the artistes came on stage in the grand finale and two female dancers in Mashramani costume held on to President Bharrat Jagdeo and ushered him to the stage, it made for a perfect end!

Guyana Chronicle

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