How long have you been involved in Theatre?
My involvement started at primary school where my progressive teachers encouraged us to present our own skits and to perform in school productions. At secondary school we had a very strong tradition of school plays that were nationally recognized in English newspapers. When I was in the sixth form, we went to Amsterdam to represent London in an international festival – which we won, by the way – and then the next year we were invited by a West End theatre to present our play, Billy Liar, for a special weekend showing – that was really exciting.
What inspired you to become involved?
In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?
Now, I participate largely in a rather private way – reading plays, writing play(s), watching plays. My love has been performing but Dream was my first performance for quite a while, I think about 8 years.
Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years?
Far too many to list as they would go back to 1959 but let’s just say they range from Macbeth and Dream to Loot and The Foreigner; from To Kill a Mockingbird to Noises Off; from Camelot to Mother Goose and from Look Back in Anger to Japanese Noh theatre. I directed 17 school plays at St Andrew’s – wrote three of them; directed eight major productions when teaching in England and two more in Argentina. I was a member of a travelling group of English actors in Sweden that went to schools, colleges and community centres performing plays in English and I have directed five plays at the Dundas.
What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?
In a student production of Waiting for Godot at a maximum security prison in England, the other tramp and I were doing our exercises at a certain point in act two. This was a procedure that involved us jumping and skipping, pulling each other and eventually spinning off and rolling across the floor. In the heat of the moment, I rolled a little too far and ended up at the feet of a sour looking inmate in the front row. (We were performing in the round, by the way) I looked up and saw him glowering at me and before I could stand up he hissed, “Now I know you’re fucking mad!”
Playing Atticus Finch in Ian Poitier’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird was a real highlight as was fighting in slow motion with David Burrows in Philip’s production of Macbeth. Being involved in Midsummer Night’s Dream was great too.
Back in college I was playing both identical twins in a production of Ring Round The Moon and the girl who was helping me backstage to change quickly between appearances made a mistake and gave me the wrong piece of costume. I was stranded onstage in the wrong clothes and wished for a hole to escape in but the actress I was working with started an adlibbed conversation that enabled us to cover it so that I could get off and change again and come back. We fooled ourselves that nobody noticed but….
In the 1970s in England I was in production of the Greek play Lysistrata during a miner’s strike that was causing long and painful power cuts. These cuts were announced in advance but on one of the nights of the play, the lights went out unexpectedly and I had to play my big scene in the dark, shouting at the top of my voice.
How do you feel about Theatre in The Bahamas? What are its weak and strong points? How active is it? How can we make it better?
Theatre in The Bahamas has fluctuated from extremely lively to nearly non-existent to its present midway point: inconsistent but things are happening. I believe it could flourish again because there is tremendous interest once someone has the courage and resources to mount a production. Its strong point is the willingness of people to help and the tremendous initial enthusiasm generated; its weak point is a lack of stamina and stickability on the part of those who initially come out. People who are willing to direct and organize, write and produce need incentives – I don’t mean funds necessarily, but tangible things like the prospect of a new theatre or studio workshop space. I believe too many people view Bahamian theatre as something like a private club and feel they can never become a part of it.
What do you do to prepare for a part?
Learn it as soon as I can. Then work on the actual character to try to make it real – make it physical. I don’t think I can do a good job if I’m referring to the script all the time.
Describe your process as a director.
I like to visualize certain key moments in the play and then let these expand till they become scenes. I guess I do this while I’m reading and getting to really know the script. I like to plan the rehearsal schedule and what we will do each time we meet so that all parts of the play are rehearsed as much as possible. I like to go over and over important bits so that meaning, timing, character and mood can all dissolve together.
Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
Don’t hold back and procrastinate but approach people who are active and find out what opportunities there are. Respond to audition calls.
Who were your mentors in Theatre?
As I said, I was lucky at school in that a number of teachers stimulated my interest. At college where I studied Drama in Education, I had a terrific lecturer who encouraged me to experiment and gave tremendous feedback. Since coming to The Bahamas I was in a production of Deathtrap directed by an ageing American alcoholic called Jack Devereaux who gave great advice on delivery, posture and concentration. I’ve read a lot of books too and was profoundly influenced by Peter Brook’s The Empty Space, Jerzy Grotoxski’s Towards a Poor Theatre and Antonin Artaud’s The Theatre of Cruelty.
How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
I guess I could play a part occasionally. I would quite like to direct again – maybe my adaptation of The Government Inspector.
What is your favorite Bahamian play?
You Can Lead a Horse to Water and Diary of Souls tie for favourite.
In your years as an actor/director/writer, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
Can’t say that I have. Government has never to my knowledge sponsored a production or paid for a resident director or anything like that.
What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
Government should promote the arts. It is terrible really that we do not have a National Theatre Company or a building that we can call a theatre and mean it. Promotion means so much more than organizing a competition for kids to recite chichcharney poems or play Blue Hill Water Dry on the piano. It means investing in the different forms and having a working plan for the development of theatre, music, painting, sculpture, writing and all the associated genres. Studios, performance spaces and equipment must be provided for young people to develop and discover talents in non-threatening environments. The present activity, interest and burgeoning talent stream in painting and sculpture is testimony to the NAGB and the way they have been able to promote art. Imagine a similar situation for theatre. Music. Dance. Arts for All could be a slogan to try to attract those people with talent who are reluctant to get involved because they see the artistes as somehow out of their class or age bracket.