HALQA Productions – “Under the Mango Trees”

Friday 14th November was the opening night for new Production Company – Halqa Productions. Guests were treated to complimentary wine and cupcakes as an opener to the company’s first play “Under the Mango Trees” which was written by founder Simeon Chris Moodoo.

This production is described on the company website as “an experimental play that attempts to create a performance that is identifiably Trinidadian and by extension Caribbean.” The website also went on, stating that “the playwright uses the essences of the traditional enactments, traditional mas, folklore and cultural diversity of the people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to deconstruct the traditional social conditioning of gender roles, politics and religious prejudices which exist in Trinbagonian and by extension the Caribbean society.”

Now, I’m unsure if the writers of this description knew the kind of expectation this would build in prospective patrons, but let me tell you, while I’m sure that this is the vision for the play, the actual production fell short of the expectations created. That said, I didn’t read the description before and so, thankfully I had no expectations.

What I should have known going in though, was that this play is not just experimental but incomplete (the entire production was approximately 45 minutes long). The production is being staged as a type of workshop and feedback forum to help flesh out the production. Now while in my humble opinion, the play should not have been staged without more of the story being developed, it has the potential to develop into a truly great piece.

This story is about a young couple facing their challenges. Now I wish I could say more and be more descriptive but really that’s all that was portrayed, and not in great depth. The story has many angles which could and should be explored, the most important of it for me would be to see how the relationship between Adafi and Ryan developed and what led Ryan to abandon her at the alter. Another issue which appeared simply to be thrown into the mix without much forethought or linkage to the story is that of race relations between Ryan’s mother’s family and Ryan’s father. The different issues that the playwright attempted to highlight were disjointed and not fleshed out. The actual script is in need of heavy refinement and extrapolation.

Script aside, the actual production was commendable with very appropriate and creative use of lighting and choreography. The actors had compelling chemistry, the silhouette dancers added drama and intrigue and the touches of Caribbean culture made it relateable to the audience. The live music was a powerful touch, though with drums in such a small space there were the occasions where the vocals were overpowered. The Actors were captivating in their portrayals and the long dramatic pauses would have been more effective had there been more substance to the play. If the producers could have included physical props for the mangoes and ‘joint’.

This is definitely not a play for the kids, with some sexual content, and overall has great potential. I sincerely hope that the play develops properly and doesn’t disappoint when we see it again in a completed state.

Halqa Productions, if they choose better developed scripts, has the potential to be one of the better production houses locally. Their actual production can rival that of some of the more experienced producers and their drive to create original plays with thought provoking messages has this writer looking forward to future productions.

In this writer’s opinion, the play is unfinished and so to give it a full review would be premature. Did you see the play yet? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

If you haven’t there’s still time; the play continues this weekend at the Little Carib Theatre. Tickets cost $100 and $75 for students. This play is not intended for audiences under the age of 16.

Under the Mango Trees

Procenium Theatre Company’s “The Wiz – A Tribute to Geoffrey Holder”

The WIZ is an adaption of the classic “The Wizard of Oz” story. It was first performed on stage in 1975 with Geoffrey Holder (to whom Proscenium had dedicated these performances) as its director. The original play won seven Tony Awards, including the coveted ‘Best Musical’ award. This is a fun, light, carefree family show which contains beautiful, soulful music.

Before I go on I must say, members of the cast, along with patrons who attended other viewings of the show informed me that I attended on Disaster Night (Friday 07th November) and so this review has taken that into account.

Director Mervyn de Goeas added some small but effective touches into the script, which increased the audience’s interest and overall experience. His inclusion of local and modern references/music were well placed and well received.

The actors and casting for the show was excellent. Tishanna Williams’ performance was commendable and quite convincing as Dorothy, though I have spoken to quite a few people who thought she overacted the sweet innocence of the character. Her performance was, quite simply, stellar. Kevin Humphrey had the audience laughing with his portrayal of the cowardly Lion and Candice Alcantara as Addaperle (The God Witch of the North) also delivered a noteworthy performance. Even the extras shone, the attitude-filled crows, sultry poppies, the energetic yellow brick road, enthusiastic munchkins and the crack head citizens, all added greatly to enhance the show.

Maurice Morancie, Tishanna Williams, Kevin Humphrey, Candice Alcantara and Diahann White (the Tin Man; Dorothy; Lion; the Good Witch of the North and Aunty Em) gave some trilling vocal performances. Unfortunately, Jeannine Clarke (Evilene) was hoarse on the night. This was a grave disappointment as her one song (No Bad News) was the one I looked forward to the most. Aurora Tardieu was, vocally, a disappointment. She managed to make Ease On Down The Road (a song which went on to be its own single and make it on the Billboard Hot 100 chart) into a forgettable, ear-assaulting bore while her rendition of Believe in Yourself was unimpressive. But I need to say, Maurice Morancie – The Tin Man, his voice was so….sexy is the only word that comes to mind.

The Yellow Brick Road, which was portrayed by a team of four dancers, had its effect lost due to the lack of supporting effects. The set design and the flying monkey, which wasn’t given the kind of enhancement it needed, were HUGE disappointments for this production. There was some set malfunction on the night which caused a slight interruption to the proceedings, however the audience was understanding. The stage had too much open empty space and the minimal props used failed to add to what should have been the glamor of the city of Oz. The set and effects was only truly enhanced by the lighting and wonderful makeup and costuming.

The already lively sound of the production was enhanced with the addition of modern musical beats. The band did a quality job of enhancing the show without overpowering the vocals. Proscenium’s production of the musical was extremely well done. Mistakes do happen, did happen, but the show must go on and go on it did, much to the delight of the patrons. Overall I would give this play a 3 / 5. This was one for the kids, a great family show.