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Vigil For Roxie Paints a Funny Yet Poignant Picture

Carol Lawes in Vigil for Roxie

“It hot but hush,” This is what Stacey tells her son to comfort his hunger and their precarious living conditions. But in many ways its the message behind the play Vigil for Roxie. Life in Jamaica is painful but hush. The one-woman play looks at the violence eating at Jamaica, a cankerous sore most often breaking out in the ghettos but not always being born there. 

Vigil for Roxie was recently staged at the Liberty Hall in downtown Kingston, a fitting home for it, especially as harkens back to one of the original uses of the space when Marcus Garvey and Ranny Williams employed theatre as a tool for understanding the society and the politics which control it.

Carol Lawes

The play is performed by Carol Lawes and directed by Eugene Williams. While Lawes’ physicality makes the suspension of disbelief a little challenging, her skills with voice and capturing the nuances of characterization quickly make up for it, and Vigil for Roxie is populated by interesting characters a few of which are intriguingly raw.

Created through the collaborative efforts of Amba Che

vannes, Honor Ford Smith and Eugene Williams Vigil for Roxie, couldn’t be accused of being shortsighted, even if its vision isn’t exactly 20/20. 

The story is largely told by Miss Iris, Roxie’s mother, and opens as she prepares for the annual vigil to mark his death. It allows you to see with a degree of clarity as Roxie moves from being an innocent boy with hopes and aspirations for a better life, to becoming a ‘gun bag’ and eventually into a violent man who has to squash dreams of travel to far away lands like the gold coast into a “nice” house for his mother built from ill gotten gains.

Along with Miss Iris and Roxie, the play features multiple characters as varied as a Rastaman hustling on the streets and an upper-class woman and her helper, Mavis. Interestingly, although Mavis never makes and appearance, you only hear the instructions to her, the dynamic between Mavis and her boss. You also hear from others in Roxie’s life, as well as other voices including as the tapestry of his life and death are created, and we learn that Roxie was not merely the leader his mother declared him, but was an enforcer for politicians who out lived his usefulness.

At the opening, it appeared that the play was going to be a lament, as Miss Irie mourns her fallen son whom she describes as a bright boy and leader of the community. But a vigil or ni night is not solely about celebrating the good, it is about looking at the life that was lived. So, as the other voices enter the drama, it becomes clear that his is by no means the whole picture. It becomes evident, that despite her grief, Miss Iris is not completely innocent. A line of 'memorial' to the fallen make up the landscape

So, in the end Vigil for Roxie presents a moving portrayal, at times funny and at others poignant. It is a worthwhile look at the state of Jamaica, or at least a portion of it, the segment where young boys tend to fall through the cracks only to spring up as dangerous weeds who are then violently uprooted only for the cycle to continue over again.

The recent staging of Vigil for Roxie, held on Sunday, March 9, was preceded by a mini-revival meeting which added to the authentic feel of the event. The Liberty Hall grounds were strewn with memorial pictures of slain men. The event also featured a performance by the Jamaica Youth Theatre and Woodside Community Action Group in 'Voices Stifling Violence'.