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Forty Years and Looking Forward: Brian Heap Celebrates with God of Carnage

Brian Heap celebrates 40 years in Jamaican theatre with God of Carnage

Dr. Brian Heap is about to shift gears in his career. He is on the cusp of retirement from the University of the West Indies, Mona where he has been Senior Lecturer and head of the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts and simultaneously he’s marking his fortieth year in Jamaican theatre. To celebrate, Heap is staging his Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award-winning comedy God of Carnage, currently playing at the PSCCA.

Heap first came to the Jamaican stage via the Trevor Rhone classic School’s Out. Since then he has graced the stage of numerous productions, including several Pantomimes and has become one of the island’s major directors.

“I hope that I’ve had some modest achievement during the 40 years. This will be my last University Players production as head of The Centre,” Heap says when asked about the celebration. 

Interestingly, the revitalizing of the University Players, which had been dormant for several years can easily be counted among Heap’s achievements. Since its return The University Players has re-established itself as a staple of the Jamaican theatre scene, producing several award-winning productions since its return. It’s repertoire has been filled out by a wide range of plays including new plays, Caribbean classics and productions culled from across the globe. 

Forty-years on, Heap remarks that Jamaica continues to benefit from a vibrant theatre landscape despite the challenges.

“When you actually look at the theatre scene it’s actually thriving,” Heap says. “The only problem is you’re doing it in a space where you’re not getting much support,” he says going on to explain that Jamaican theatre exists in a continuing balance act between vibrancy from the practitioners and neglect from the powers that be. The absence of The Barn Theatre where Heap made his entry into Jamaican theatre and the continued struggle of The Ward Theatre are just two of the changes over the forty years that mark this struggle for balance and support.

In the face of these hurdles to be balanced by creative energy, it is not surprising that Heap names pragmatic concerns as a significant part of why he chose God of Carnage to be part of his 40th celebration.

“It’s as pragmatic a decision as anything. It only has four characters and only one set,” Heap says. “I’ve been very fortunate in having a talented cast willing to take this on,” he said.

This rendition of God of Carnage features Alwyn Scott Deanne Allgrove, Jean-Paul Menou and Julene Robinson. The play is heading toward its final weekend at the Philip Sherlock Centre. 

Though Heap points to the practical reasons for his choice, he quickly notes the social significance of God of Carnage. Heap expresses admiration for Reza’s ability to take the seemingly insignificant to explore deeper issues. He also speaks to the plays relevance on the Jamaican landscape, noting that the play deals with the treatment of children.

“[God of Carnage] forces people to evaluate their own values,” Heap says. “We’re talking about the protection of children but we should be talking about the reformation of adults and their attitudes.”

With his departure from the UWI, Heap is looking toward changing gears. He explains that he will therefore be moving from his life in academia to working in social enterprise with the Multicare Foundation. 

“I really want to use retirement to go and explore new things,” Heap says.