Belly Woman closes EMCVPA Founders’ Week with the Jonkanoo dance
The curtains on EMCVPA’s Founders’ Week came down with the opening of “Belly Woman” written by alumnus Omaall Wright and directed by alumna and lecturer at the School of Drama, Ms. Dorraine Reid. The title “Belly Woman” immediately conjures images of “belly woman” in the traditional Jamaican jonkanoo band, and so, a rich cultural experience was anticipated.
Omaall is known for the “spoken word”, as such, it was not surprising that the language in the play was deeply rooted in that tradition. It is probably for that reason that I stood up to applaud Reid on her directorial skills. To direct a play written in verse could not have been easy, especially one laden with rhyming couplets throughout the play. The actors/actresses, set design, lighting, music, costumes and scene changes were so good that we had to all stand up and say to Ms. Reid – “brilliant!”
Belly Woman paid tribute to the enslaved women, who were sexually abused through the characters of Belly Woman, Mother Lungi and Lally; and celebrated their resilience. Popular Jamaican actresses Grace McGhie and Hilary Nicholson at intermission expressed their delight – “it is beautiful, I am heartened. The acting is superb and the dancers moved beautifully.”
Probably the most poignant moment was the lead character’s rendition of the song freedom after giving her soul to “massa” to save the love of her life – Jack’s life. Other theatre luminaries shared their thoughts about the play:
Basil Dawkins – “Good work – energy – good set – deft directorial choices, choreography on point, some promising singing voices. All in all, a good night at the theatre. It was especially fitting since March is recognized as International Women’s Month.”
Fae Ellington – “The playwright did a look back in history and made the forward link. Amazing how little has changed in over five hundred years. Not much has changed, we might say…just how.
One of the things that struck me was the choice Belly Woman made to be with the slave owner. Many women who were/are exploited, have had to make tough decisions with far-reaching implications.”
Jack’s life was saved, but he lost two fingers. This was a brilliant effort in recalling the legendary slave “three finger jack” who ran away and became a maroon. This was not Jack’s end in “Belly Woman”, however, as he took the leap with his love choosing to take his own life rather than be killed by the slave owners. This re-writing of Jack’s story was a political act in itself, and Wright and Reid deserve applause for allowing us to “sing the jonkanoo dance in this modern technological advance”. Belly Woman runs for another weekend – March 16, 17 and 18 at the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre at the School of Drama. Connect with us on our Facebook and Instagram pages to join the conversation, and experience around Belly Woman.
By Coleen Douglas, Marketing and Communications Director at the EMCVPA