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Saving Alligator High - Seriously Hilarious!
Patrick Brown’s Saving Alligator High, produced by Jambiz International, is seriously hilarious business. That is, it is serious and hilarious at the same time. The laugh-a-minute comedy takes a glaring look at the schools that are falling behind in Jamaica’s education system, those that have been dubbed the “prison schools” which provide the prisons with the majority of the fodder fed into them.
Saving Alligator High is directed by Patrick Brown and Trevor Nairne and takes place in the (ill-named) school’s unkempt staff room, which is the war room of their ongoing battle with the students.
The production is well-directed and benefits significantly from strong technical elements. Lighting is good, but more functional than creative and the costuming benefits from good design. It’s strongest element here is the set which presents a room that is dingy and chaotic and It looks like the staff room that progress forgot. In many ways it is.
The staff room is peopled by teachers who suffer from various degrees of apathy, and are led by a principal, who is never seen but is occasionally heard, and seems as equally disinterested in the students.
Bev Beckford (Camille Davis) has been temporary for six years. She’s committed to her students and has a good enough heart, but her skills are far below those required. She is a teacher of English language and literature who has only a passing acquaintance with either, presents some of the productions most hilarious moments .
The constantly debt-ridden Tami Turnbull (Sakina Deer) uses her sexuality as the most potent piece of her arsenal and believes that the children are doomed regardless of her efforts, so she applies as little as possible.
Jeff Jones (Glen Campbell) at first seems to spend more time watching cricket than he does in the classroom, but it soon becomes evident that he bestows a selective teaching method.
Fox Bell (Courtney Wilson) is the school’s physical education teacher, however his greatest concern is selling snacks to the students, and an unhealthy tendency to reminisce about his glory days as a student on the Manning Cup team.
Mrs. Sonya Lee (Sharee Elise) is the newest member of staff and she is bent of trying to bring change to the school and the classroom, an attempt which brings her into a confrontation with the area don.
By now, the cast has grown into a well-oiled machine and their internal chemistry helps to make the production even more enjoyable. The dynamic between the performers is wonderful. Glen Campbell, Camille Davis and Sakina Deer give particularly striking performances.
Sharee Elise also gives a notable performance and Courtney Wilson is well-cast in this role giving a solid delivery. David Crossgill tackles the minor role of Shotty Shotty Sean and is a welcome addition, holding his own well against amongst the solid cast.
There are ways in which Saving Alligator High feels like a sequel to Trevor Rhone’s School’s Out, or maybe it is simply that the play makes it evident that despite the years that have passed our most vulnerable remain at risk, and the system that was created to offer them hope and possibility acts more as a blight on their lives.
Where Saving Alligator High departs from School’s Out is that despite its showing the glaring inadequacies of the staff, it is more forgiving of them and suggests that the teachers are in many ways hostages of the system, and occasionally, the students. The play is careful to suggest that the problem lies outside any single classroom but is more a problem generated by the society and the education system.
Interestingly, despite the hilarity that ensues, the play never makes light of its subject matter, highlighting that just because you take ‘bad tings make laugh’ doesn’t mean doesn’t lessen the weight of the truth behind the laughter.
Saving Alligator High ends on a note of hope, and even though the gruesome reality in which it is grounded suggests that in real life this happy ending is not believable, they are easily forgiven this trespass, because we deserve and desire this faint hope that some day, parents, teachers and administrators can come together and save our children from being the snarling tough hide creatures we have turned them into.