Moon on a rainbow shawl
For the next year, Sue and I have agreed that we will go to the theatre at least once a month. That probably doesn’t sound like a very stretching target for some, but it will be quite a step up for us – and to add some public reinforcement to the commitment, I will post a record of each visit on this blog. We started this last weekend with a visit to the Theatre Royal in Bath to see ‘Moon on a rainbow shawl’ by Errol John in a production by the Talawa Theatre Company and the National Theatre.
Written in the 1950s, this play fits the kitchen-sink type dramas of the time, but the setting in post-war Trinidad gives a different feel to it, touching on lots of themes to do with poverty and ambition. It took a while to get used to the rhythms of the speech and I never really got on top of what Mavis, the shouty neighbour was saying, missing about half her words, but gradually the other characters drew you in, so that you believed in them and felt for them.
In the second act, the play seemed to get bleaker and bleaker as the agonies pile up for the central characters – Charlie Adams arrested for stealing, Ephraim abandoning Rosa, his pregnant girlfriend, to emigrate to England, and then Esther turning on her mother before running away. There are maybe glimmers of hope right at the end as Esther returns, and Ephraim breaks away for a chance of a better life through emigration, but it’s a pretty dark ending for Mrs. Adams, left on her own to cope with Esther and the baby, and for Rosa, who gives in to the attentions of old Mr. Mack. You’re not left with any great optimism for the chances of Esther succeeding through her scholarship, or even Ephraim succeeding in England, given the racial discrimination he’s still likely to find there.
Mrs. Adams is really the most powerful character in the play, the one you sympathise with most and the one who ends up with least hope. It’s a very strong performance by Martina Laird, and there are several good roles for women and good performances too. The only disappointment really is Mavis and her boyfriend Prince, who seem to be there mostly as comic relief, but who didn’t really work as such for me. They’re maybe there too though to bring in another sub-theme about the power of the dollar, as American soldiers and sailors come and go in Mavis’ hut.
I liked the set (by Soutra Gilmour) with three shacks, one cut away, one up on stilts and one with a verandah, and I liked the little bit of music too, and more music could have livened it up a bit. Overall though it was a play that made you think, and despite the rather bleak themes, an entertaining evening.