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Seven Shades of Woman Boasts a Deep Pool of Talent
Seven Shades of Woman at the Philip Sherlock Centre in Kingston presented a deep pool of acting talent. With the help of six other actresses, and a few actors, writers and directors, Julene Robinson displayed why she should not only be considered one of the finest thespians currently on the Jamaican stage but also deserves the chance at sharpening her skills even further.
The night was a combination of monologues and short plays. There was a reasonably diverse portrayal of women, with recurring themes, especially focused on women’s relationships with each other, as well as their roles as caregivers. The pieces explored motherhood, blackness, race relations, and religion.
Seven Shades of Woman presented the wealth of acting talent available to the Jamaican stage. The performances, especially, by the younger actresses were occasionally a little over the top, but generally, were well-nuanced and dynamic performances.
The event also provided a glimpse of the growing body of writing talent. A few of the performers explored multiple roles as writer, director and performers. Shantol Jackson with ‘Woman’, Noelle Kerr with ‘A Little Therapy’ and Dahlia Harris with ‘Woman to Ooman’ each took on these multiple roles with varying success. Harris’ writing and directorial chops were also displayed in the hilarious skits, ‘Jesus on the Telephone’, excerpted from her gospel musical revue, God Go Wid Yuh.
GiRL (Shanique Brown), although also a talented actress, stepped away from her acting role and brought the evening’s offering of music instead. Her velvety smooth vocals, coupled with great range, engaging and charming performance brought the first half of the show to a head-bopping, foot-tapping close. GiRL opened with a mash-up of Tanya Stephen’s ‘What a Day’ and Buju Banton’s ‘Untold Stories’, and followed through with Say Love by Jojo, and ‘Shark in the Water’ by VV Brown, then closed with a few of her own original works ‘Press Play’, ‘Love’ and ‘Nobody Wins’.
Though dubbed Seven Shades of Woman, the production was not without male presence. That presence, before the curtain was minimal, with minor roles played by Desmond Dennis and Akeem Mignott. However, several of the pieces were written and/or directed by men.
This included the budding writing and directing skills of Brian Johnson, which was showcased in two of the evening’s short plays. First up was ‘Barrel Child’, brought to life by nuanced performances from Veronique Smith and Robinson. It explores a mother and daughter relationship across the seas, as they attempt to bridge the years and distance between them, via Skype.
Despite costuming decisions which allowed for some misdirection, it is an interesting piece. The play comes to a sweet conclusion after dancing a little on the dark side to delve into the stark realities faced by the ‘barrel pickney’ as well as the estranged parent eking out a living in a foreign land that turned out to be much less of a paradise than advertised.
Johnson’s second piece, ‘Bullying’, was occasionally too preachy which led it to a few moments that felt like an infomercial about celebrating blackness, but in the main, it was an entertaining piece buoyed by dynamic language and well-drawn characters that demonstrate that Johnson may yet develop into a fine writer. Robinson and Jackson, the two leads for the piece, were magnificent.
Seven Shades of Woman also included a foray into the dark side with an excerpt from Matthew Murrel’s ‘Hell Got No Fury Like a Scorn Woman’, directed by Danar Royal and performed by Petrina Williams.
Pieces from Karl Williams’ The Black That I Am bracketed the event. The evening opened with Nadean Rawlins’ rendition ‘Church Lady’, directed by Brian Heap. ‘Church Lady’, a jab at the hypocrisy found in the church, made a delightful start to the evening. The monologue is a beautiful work of ironic wit as the church lady cast aspersion that could easily be laid at her own feet.
The evening closed with Robinson’s captivating performance of ‘Me and My White Boy’, directed by Rawlins. It was a wonderful end to the night that underscored a breathtaking wealth of talent.
Seven Shades of Woman was a part of Julene Robinson’s efforts to raise funds to attend the prestigious Rose Bruford College in the UK. Robinson is also running a Go Fund Me campaign to raise additional funds.