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Her Last Cry: Sensitive, Serious With a Dash of Humour

Her Last Cry

Her Last Cry is the story of two women and an abusive man. It’s a story of pain, regret, and love (or what sometimes passes for it). Her Last Cry is an entertaining production that treats with an important issue with the requisite seriousness but sufficient servings of humour so that while it remains weighty, the play never gets depressing, even though watch women make the same stupid mistake over and again is taxing on the nerves. 

Currently playing at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, University of the West Indies, Mona, the three-hander is written and directed by Dahlia Harris who also plays the lead role. Harris, who plays Joanna Marsh shares the stage with Tesfa  Edwards (Paul Marsh) and Belinda Reid (Louise). 

Dahlia Harris and Tesfa EdwardsPaul and Joanna Marsh at first appear to be a happily married couple living in middle class comfort. This facade quickly crumbles, when it becomes evident that Paul’s confidence rests heavily on his ability to control of his wife, and to make matters worse he is unreasonably jealous. The play highlights the ways in which abusive men can appear charming on the outside, making it even harder for others to see the monsters they house within. It also speaks to the complicity of the women who are abused as they make excuses time and again, and some like Joanna believe that the abuse is just a part of the "worse' in the pledge to stay together for better or worse.

Interestingly, on my way home from the play, I caught sight of the Sunday Gleaner whose headline declared: ‘Begging For a Beating: Some Jamaica Women Still Believe “Mi Man Lick Mi Because Him Love Me”’. The article went on to point out that approximately 6% of Jamaican women hold the belief that abuse is justified. The article highlighted that although the story portrayed in Her Last Cry is a tale that has been told many times, it certainly bears retelling.Tesfa Edwards and Belinda Reid

Additionally, although Her Last Cry brings nothing new to the exploration of women who remain with the men who terrify and terrorize them, the characters are well drawn and engaging, and the plot is solid. The play attempts to show the potentially fatal road to which abuse leads, but it appears to want to veer away from being a tragedy, and so it instead ends on a less unhappy note. This decision slightly detracts from the otherwise realistic portrayal.

All three members of the cast deliver good performances, although Harris and Reid do outshine Edwards. Since her role in Aston Cooke’s Concubine, Harris has shown that she is able to give nuanced portrayals of physically and/or emotional abused women. 

Tesfa Edwards, Belinda Reid and Dahlia HarrisWhat is interesting about the Joanna, and Harris’ portrayal is that the role highlights that abusive relationships isn’t merely about physical strength, but is often about economic and emotional power and the abuse there of. 

Louise brings much of the humour in the production, and Reid is positively delightful in this role, managing to humanize the potentially stereotypical garrulous household helper. Louise, the Marsh’s new household helper, is a woman confident in her own independence despite her poverty, and having had children (for possible multiple) ‘wutless man’ who have since abandoned her. She makes a great contrast to Joanna, who is educated and affluent yet trapped in an abusive situation.

The relationship between Louise and Joanna is one of the best elements of Her Last CryIndeed, one of the most commendable elements about Her Last Cry, and one of the ways it differentiates itself is through the relationship which develops between Lou and Joanna as they learn to find strength in each other. 

Her Last Cry benefits from a visually engaging set as well as good lighting. Indeed, it is particularly enjoyable to see one of Harris's productions on a stage with so much more room and scope for movement and technical design, and Her Last Cry is an aesthetically pleasing production.

The production opened July 18, and closes this weekend. Proceeds from the play are in aid of The Women’s Crisis Centre, Woman Inc.