REVIEW: Jamaicans show wits with ‘Bashment Granny 2’

From Act one to the end of Bashment Granny 2, peels of laughter were literally ripped from sides, belly bottoms and toe tips.


Just in case you’ve missed the actual play, at the Green Gables, you’re likely to get a recording of the Bashment Granny Series. Bashment Granny 2 deals with more than the script and actors. You are also exposed to the wits of the persons behind the play itself … and more.

“Bad Boy Trevor” is known as an actor – his first film made public this year, but as writer Garfield Reid, his play, ‘Bashment Granny 2’, at the Green Gables Theatre can easily be considered “witty”.

There are six main characters in the play “Bashment Granny 2 (The saga continues)” namely Mr Bashment (Maxwell “Maama Man” Grant); Keith “Shebada” Ramsay; Counsellor Betram (Volier Johnson); Babalita (Abigail Grant); Half-a-Dog (Junior Williams) and Gloria (Deon Silvera). Then there are the other elements such as the props, especially the music which strategically fill critical roles as another character.

Half-a-Dog (Junior Williams) and (Volier Johnson)
Half-a-Dog (Junior Williams) and Counsellor Bertram (Volier Johnson)
All came together, as a perfect fit, to emanate the fierce passion with which the combined production team invested to present Jamaica’s rawest culture. Thankfully, this was done with little, if any, commentary on any influence of American lifestyle.

At 8:30 p.m, on opening night, with just one third of the seats filled, the plot unfolded. Neither the seated patrons, nor those soon arriving to quickly fill the room knew what they were in for, from the sequel to what could easily be described as Jamaica’s best play yet “Bashment Granny” in 2006. From Act one to the end, peels of laughter were literally ripped from sides, belly bottoms and toe tips.

What made the play all the more intriguing was the spur of short anecdotes of Jamaican experiences openly displayed on stage, well connected by fine threads of Jamaica’s popular sayings. For example, Shebada’s reference to the Jamaican boops as a walking ATM and the every present “chattas”.

Even more delightful were the facetious verbal punches often spewing from the mouth of Shebada, as he cozily conveyed the paradoxical nature of a “licky licky” policeman always dutiful on call, but very laid back and corrupted in carrying out his duties.

Creative sayings such as “flirterising [with] the customer” offered by Mr Bashment with his adroit way of humouring listeners, I’m sure Jamaicans will waste no time in adapting. Occasionally, few patrons uncontrollably leaned forward to toss their own emotions at the actors on stage, when they were punched by the newly-designed anecdotal lines.

It took 11 scenes staged in a bar setting, to bring the sizzling brew of romance, jealousy, deceit, treachery, and Jamaican hocus pocus to a climax. Playing the blaming game, the insatiable appetite of Jamaican men to have all the women they can have, the unique spelling disability of Jamaicans, the misuse of words were just a few samplings of Jamaican culture revealed. There was even a brief tribute to the Jamaican hobby of “eating fish” , and the demonstration of the hottie hottie gal with the many Jamaican men.

PLOT

The main plot surrounded acquiring the 12 million bag, part of which was “rinsed” on the opening of the Bashment Entertainment Lounge, where the entire play was acted out. The bar is interestingly operated by Mr Bashment in partnership with the well striped-law officer Shebada who both believe they are entitled to fifty per cent of the money for having kept the money secure.

In an ironical twist, Officer Constable Shebada seeks to use some of the ‘blood money’ to keep himself from being convicted of murdering someone he killed while on duty. Except for the intervention of quick-minded and skilful Shebada in the final scene, this was almost achieved by everybody’s fool, Barbalita.

The 12 million dollars, originally owned by rogue Half-a-Dog fell into the hands of Mr Bashment, after a successful fraud trap by Bad Boy Trevor. Half -a-Dog, deported from the United States was bent on reclaiming his spoils, and choose the dim wit bargirl Babalita as his main tool. He is unaware though that he is being set up by the “dim wit” who constantly communicated with jail rat Bad Boy Trevor.

Although all characters were engaged in Jamaican-style romance at one point or another, discussing the Jamaican’s interpretation of love and romance was the primary responsibility of Counsel Bertram and his wife, Gloria. Called to the bench, the treacherous, sometimes unstable, but pompous lawyer spent his time dodging his beloved wife who tried to serve him divorce papers for infidelity. In this almost secondary plot, he eventually won her heart in a surprise twist at the end.

The play dispensed exact lessons of Jamaica’s culture. High drama was created as the writer applied his knowledge of Jamaican life and sets up the characters to be effortless in assuming their roles under the perfect directorship of Michael Nicholson.

In one of the scenes, Shebada involves the thought process of the audience, when he suggested that the bar, be renamed as the ‘Jerry Springer’ show.

Nothing short of a cultural ambassador Nicholson did not fail at keeping the play sharply modern, ensuring that the production was vivid. Doubling as one of the stage’s set designers, he maintained proper balance between the visual and performing arts, in clearly keeping the script to the Reid’s original idea and holding the plot compact.

Aside from the confirmation that Jamaica has an unending reservoir of talent in both performing and visual arts, the production shows the ability of Jamaicans to live and let live especially when it comes to affairs of the heart.

High-standard productions such as this reiterates that while the performing arts usually relaxes, and the visual arts challenge, comical drama provides good avenues for releasing one’s tensions.

There were only a few foul ups like the contradictory moments. In two of the scenes, Maxwell who doubles as both Mr Bashment and Portia Piller refers to Babalita as ‘granddaughter’ which could cause slight confusion. Of course as Portia Piller, he is the grandmother of Babalita, while as Mr Bashment he is her employer.

Luckily, Half-a-Dog, did not pick up on this in his bloodhunt for Mr Bashment and his 12 million dollars.

More attention could be spent on the consistency in the dress and makeup of the artists, although the actors were to be found in their natural environment. Mr Bashment was too bashy to wear the same outfit through most scenes of Act One, and at times Barbalita appeared too sloppy for a bargirl. The one minute appearance by Mrs Gloria Bertram’s friend at the ‘Re-opening’ could have been better thought through, as much as the ‘Back Pon Street’ scene. However, the incorporation of the audience as guests in ‘Re-opening’ would suffice to compensate. This was added treat to Mr Bashment’s earlier consistent interaction with the audience.

Competing the scenes would be pointless as each must be appreciated for their individual strengths which ran parallel and owned unique points of interest.

Act 2, Scene 1 ‘The Re-opening’ is one of the more memorable scenes, especially with the indelible dance moves by Shebada, who even climbed the wall to do the Dutty Wine.

Other good notes were the clear sound and high quality technology by John Isaacs.

It was also impressive how Jamaicans’ way of poking fun without appearing sarcastic was borne out. For example Shebada’s reference to Counsel Betram going through MENopause to criticise him about pausing from being a man with no backbone.

The play is a must see as even with little emphasis on the plot being an actual continuation of Bashment Granny (from 2006), the raw talent of the actors is well delivered entertainment, lacking nothing.

TEAM

Producer, B.L. Allen; Writer, Garfield Reid; Director, Michael Nicholson; Stage Managers, Suzzette Barrett and Rose Edie; Costume, Suzzette Barrett; Technical Effects, Rohan Wynter and John Isaacs; Set Design, Michael Nicholson and Garfield Reid; Set Construction Herbie Francis; Painter/Artist, Martin Gough.


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