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Nomaddz' Breadfruit is Fun But Not Well Roasted

Nomaddz at the Theatre Place - Breadfruit is the New Bread, Baby

Nomaddz is a dynamic, musical/performance group who commendably try to get beyond the ordinary with their performances. As they croon in ‘Mountain Lion’ they are cocky, but endearingly so, and their repertoire lends itself to the dramatic. So their presentation of a musical, or a dubical, is not a stretch of the imagination. However, while Breadfruit is the New Bread, Baby is entertaining, to call the production a musical is asking too much of the word. There is no play to be found at the heart of this breadfruit.

The production takes the group’s existing repertoire, including some of their newer pieces and attempts to heighten the dramatic elements. In doing this, they pay more attention to costuming which works to hilarious effect on ‘Bongo Man’ and is interesting with their presentation of ‘Mountain Lion’ for which they adopt some good looking cat masks. Breadfruit is the New Bread, Baby continues to build on the group’s eclectic approach to music, which this time around includes a bit of live kumina drumming.

Everaldo Creary as 'Bongo Man'The truth is, even when Nomaddz misses their mark, they still remain entertaining. It certainly takes a high level of talent to raise the ridiculous to the level of hilarity that Nomaddz does, and they do it with such confidence that you can't helped but be sucked in by it.

Conceptually, the show is interesting, and it is a great direction for the group to go in as it would marry their musical and dramatic skills. What Breadfruit lacks is proper artistic direction and cohesiveness. The production also requires lighting design, good costuming, and sound design. With these elements it could have been a fantastic experience, and would take the group to another level, which it absolutely deserves. It would also prove a game-changer for local performers.

There is some attempt to bring a bit of cohesion to the performance, and to use costuming to mark the changes. So Nomaddz opens with ideas of breaking away from conformity for which they wear masks that make them a little hard to identify (with the exception of Creary whose shorts are unmistakeable) and also includes a refreshing sample of ‘Jamaica Land of Beauty’. Similarly when they move to religion with ‘Heaven on Earth’ Peart adopts the role of Pastor Honey P which satirizes the money loving preacher.  ‘Trouble Dey Yah’ brings in an indictment of the police. Sheldon Shepherd and Oneil Peart

The production also includes performances of ‘Roast Turkey’, ‘Corporate Jamaica’, the title track for the play and, of course, their signature piece ‘Rise Above Profanity’. The result is that Breadfruit is the New Bread, Baby contains material that is entertainingly presented and that their fans are sure to enjoy.

The problem is, where is the breadfruit in all of this? The production is set against a bakery backdrop, and breadfruits are used as props. However, Shepherd has explained in interviews and performances that the phrase refers to infusing local culture and enterprise with the more local, natural and nutritious. Unfortunately, the elaboration of this statement doesn’t exist in the production, allowing it to be even more disjointed.

Throughout their career, Nomaddz has exhibited great self-reliance and skill at defying the odds and the expected. While this normally works in their favour and has allowed them to develop an inimitable brand, it seems to work against them for this production, which required more than their natural skills. The production badly needed at least a stage manager and certainly greater experience at staging theatre to improve its production values. Nomaddz

The trick is, if one goes into the production expecting a Nomaddz performance and just that, you will be entertained. However, if you come looking for a play, you will certainly be confused or disappointed as that part of the breadfruit was not well roasted.

Breadfruit is the New Bread, Baby is currently playing at the Theatre Place, Haining Road, New Kingston.