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Stanley, Fay, Pularchie and P - a mix of history, drama and comedy

Fay (Sherando Ferril) and Stanley (Dennis Titus) in a loving moment

The revival of Gloria Lannaman’s drama Stanley, Fay, Pularchie and P opened at The Theatre Place, Haining Road, Kingston, on Friday, June 22, 2012. The play is an entertaining and engaging story about love, strife, jealousy and betrayal and provides a combination of  history, drama and a touch of comedy.
The tenement yard drama is one of the hallmarks of Caribbean theatre becoming the equivalent of Europe and America’s drawing room plays. As Caribbean playwrights, and even some novelists, became more concerned with reflecting the plight of ordinary Caribbean people, the collective space of the tenement yard which brought divergent characters together, often became the backdrop against which many of the region’s most memorable stories was set.

Miss Pularchie (Marguerite Newland) councils Joey (Donald Anderson)Stanley, Fay Pularchie and P which takes place in a tenement yard in Kingston, falls in this category. The play was originally staged in 1974 under Norman Rae’s direction. Pablo Hoilett has ably taken over the director’s reins for the remounting, while two members of the original cast, Marjorie Whylie and Pauline Stone Myrie, are the producers. 

Set against the 1938 labour riots which brought Kingston to its knees and triggered Jamaica’s labour movement, Stanley, Fay, Pularchie and P takes place at an august moment in Jamaica’s history.   The riots do not merely form the backdrop to the play but are instead an integral part of the action, even though the riots themselves are never seen on the stage.

Yet as the name suggests, the interpersonal drama which unfolds is far more important. Indeed, the production’s strongest element are the intriguing mix of well-crafted characters, four of whom are named in the title. The lead character, Stanley, is one of the labourers on the Kingston waterfront. The play opens as he and his co-workers discuss the working conditions and their willingness to make a stand. The drama from the labour dispute is intricately interwoven with the personal drama which takes place between Stanley, Fay and P.

The sub-plot between Doris and Joey lightens the production’s mood, bringing much humourDoris (Marsha Ann Hay) and Joey (Donald Anderson) to the piece. Joey is the stereotypical country bumpkin, while Doris is Ms. Pularchie’s mulatto daughter who quickly sees Joey’s arrival as her ticket to a better life. Doris and Joey’s story also sheds light on the stark differences between life in the urban and rural areas. Subtly, the play indicates that as agitated as the dock workers may be about their conditions, there are those who make do with worse. Additionally, Lauriston Watson’s set design coupled with costuming and props by Quindell Ferguson add great authenticity to the drama.

Stanley, Fay, Pularchie and P benefits from very strong performances. Sherando Ferril delivers as the strong, spirited and determined Fay. Ferril is engaging and nuanced and her capturing of the 1930s countrified accent deserves great kudos.

Donald Anderson shines in this performance. Anderson is a great actor, able to straddle both drama and comedy well and in Stanley, Fay, Pularchie and P he sparkles delightfully as Joey. Anderson works wonderfully with Marsha Ann Hay who plays Doris, his love interest. Doris is a likable character because although she is evidently a little shallow, she has a good heart and Hay delivers a strong performance.

Stanley (Dennis Titus) & P (Suzette Barrett)Suzette Barrett also delivers well with her portrayal of P, which is short for Pearlie. P could be the most complicated character in the production, though Barrett has not yet fully mined her potential. She is an embittered and conniving woman but there are traces of there being more to her.

Marguerite Newland (Miss Pularchie) is the sole member of the original cast who returns for this remount. Miss Pularchie is the play’s mother figure, providing emotional and nutritional succour for the other characters. With the exception of a few moments where her laughter seems forced and out of place, Newland delivers the kind of solid, well-balanced, slightly understated performance that is expected from her. 

Of the lead actors, Dennis Titus is the weakest link. While he does a decent job as Stanley,  the role requires much more. Titus is not completely convincing as a a flawed but strong and determined leader of men which Stanley should be. His inability to fully convey this calls Fay’s love for him into question and robs the play’s ending of some pathos.

Fay (Sherando Ferril) and Stanley (Dennis Titus)Stanley, Fay Pularchie and P’s exploration of the issues facing Jamaicans during the 1930s is certainly apt during the island’s commemoration of its 50th year of independence.  It’s an entertaining lens through which we can look back at our selves and assess how far we have come and whether we have indeed come far enough.