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A 'Rahtid' Funny Revue - Jamaica Fifty 2 Rahtid

Jamaica Fifty 2 Rahtid (l-r) Camille Wilson, Marlon Campbell, Deon Silvera

Jamaica Fifty 2 Rahtid, a comedic musical revue written by Aston Cooke and directed by Dahlia Harris, provides an interesting lens through which to view Jamaica during the nation’s commemoration of its fiftieth year of independence. Cooke is an adept writer and through the Jamaica 2 Rahtid series he has expressed a keen ironic wit. This new installment is funny, though not as funny as its predecessors, Jamaica 2 Rahtid (2005) and Jamaica 2 Rahtid: Pupalick (2008).

A few years ago, the Jamaican theatre scene was dominated by comedic revues. These revues are a reflection of Jamaica’s penchant for satiric humour which pokes fun at the society by exploring its foibles. At their best, they make us do more than laugh as they have a point to make beyond the humour and capture the pathos in the phrase “tek kin teeth, kibba heart burn”. The Jamaica 2 Rhatid series have been an excellent manifestation of that ethos.

Deon Silvera - Jamaica Fifty 2 RahtidWith two Jamaica 2 Rahtid revues having been successfully executed, Jamaica Fifty 2 Rahtid has some very funny yet thoughtful shoes to fill. The original Jamaica 2 Rhatid, (as is often the case with such things) remains the funniest of the lot managing to be both hilarious and insightful. Additionally the play particularly benefited from excellent satiric writing and a cast (Chris Daley, Deon Silvera, Chris McFarlane, Terri Salmon, Everaldo Creary) equally adept at dramatic and comedic acting.

Jamaica Fifty 2 Rahtid features Deon Silvera, Marlon Campbell, Akeem Mignott, Camille Wilson (alternating with Dahlia Harris) and Ainsley Whyte. It is a reasonably capable cast but not nearly as strong as the original. The current cast benefits tremendously from Silvera’s return to the series as she carries much of the play’s comedic weight. It is also particularly striking that her range has significantly broadened since Jamaica 2 Rahtid now allowing her to play uptown and downtown parts with equal skill. I must confess to particularly wanting to see Silvera and Harris on the stage together as the two have previously displayed such great chemistry. Alas, that was not to be.

Jamaica Fifty 2 Rahtid contains some the series’ standard characters and sketches, including the inimitable Ray-Ray and Tay-Tay. The sketch, this time around played by Silvera and Wilson remains funny but it is not as satirically pointed as the previous manifestations. ‘Tea Time’, as well as the ‘Apprentice’ and ‘Case of the Missing...’ sketches also return. While they bring a welcome familiarity, it also means that  as several of the sketches are variants of the original pieces, though they are funny, they are not nearly as refreshing as their first time out. Additionally, Jamaica 50 2 Rahtid takes a while before it cranks up to being downright hilarious, with the first few sketches merely being amusing. However, once it gets there, it is a riotous trip. Marlon Campbell and Akeem Mignott in Jamaica Fifty 2 Rahtid

The play uses a minimalist set (possibly a little too minimalist) and benefits from music by Grub Cooper and movement by Kevin Moore. Inside the comedy, the play deals with several issues relevant to contemporary Jamaica including eviction and squatting, deportation and independence. It also takes another biting swipe at the cellular war between Lime and Digicel. In 2005, Cooke wittily satirised their battle over West Indies Cricket which threatened to destroy the game. Then he likened them to children at play. This time around they are likened to street prostitutes peddling their wares. The sketch is absolutely hilarious and easily the highlight of the production.

Deon Silvera and Camille WilsonThe revue also greatly benefited from the inclusion of ‘I Live in Jamaica’ by Brian Paul-Welsh and performed by Mignott. Mignott, who also appeared in Harris’ Back A Yard, displays great potential and managed the piece well. ‘I Live in Jamaica’ is one of the pieces that shows that with the Jamaica 2 Rahtid series, Cooke is interested in providing more than easy laughter, and even so he still presents a revue to is rhatid funny.

Jamaica Fifty 2 Rahtid is currently playing at the Pantry Playhouse, New Kingston.