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Where is My Father - An Entertaining and Thought Provoking Drama

Nadean Rawlins in Where is My Father

Douglas Prout and Basil Dawkins have teamed up once again, and this time they have come very close to creating magic. Where Is My Father is an energetic gripping drama that is easily one of the must sees of this year’s theatre season. The Basil Dawkins drama currently playing at the Little Little Theatre provides an entertaining and thought provoking night at the theatre.

The play is easily the finest work written by Dawkins in several years. Dawkins has had a prolific pen from which A Gift For Mom, Toy Boy, Feminine Justice, What the Hell is Happening to Us Dear?, and Champagne and Sky Juice have come. Unfortunately, that pen has also produced Uptown Bangarang 2 and last year’s forgettable A State of Affairs. Nonetheless, Dawkins remains one of our most consistent playwrights and his offerings are usually worth seeing.

Where is My Father combines a healthy dose of pathos offset by humour. The play explores the trials of Evadne a young girl who is a reluctant single mother and beset by numerous forces which attempt to dehumanize her. These include her mother, her would-be lover, her absentee ‘baby father’ and her child’s paternal grandfather. Evadne has to rise up against these forces and attempt to wrestle the kind of future that she would like to have for herself and her child. To do so she must employ both bravado and trickery.

The play benefits from a combination of solid writing and direction, and occasionally superb acting. The plot is well crafted (except for the ending) and there is a healthy sprinkling of humour as Dawkins unleashes his wit without watering down the drama, and the characters are engaging and well-developed.

Where is My Father is generally well cast and Prout is able to tease out several nuances and pulls fantastic performances from his cast. Nadean Rawlins delivers what may well be a career best with her riveting portrayal of Joycelyn. Joycelyn is at best disturbing and often downright detestable but always realistic. Joycelyn bears much in common with Dancehall Queen’s Marcia, but her moral compass is much further off kilter than that earlier character.

Other members of the supporting cast deliver strong performances. Jean Paul Menou is wonderfully disturbing as the arrogant, classist Mr. McDermott. Julene Robinson is engaging as Miss Rodney and delivers a character that is textured and easily believable. George Howard delivers a solid performance as Rupert and is able to keep just shy of the gangsta stereotype. Through this character, Dawkins makes some interesting social critique. Nonetheless, Howard is unable to make his character’s darker moments truly reverberate. Maybe it is a holdover from too many years in the Pantomime. However, this performance certainly suggests that he is an actor with a lot more to offer.

Alas, not all the members of the cast are able to rise to the full potential of the play. Allison McClean and Lisa Williams share the lead role of Evadne. McClean delivers a competent and believable performance while Williams continues to struggle to find her way as an actress. Her portrayal is a little too forced and she is unable to make Evadne’s more raw, emotional moments ring true. Rodney Campbell, who alternates with Menou in the role of Mr. McDermott, is stolid and unconvincing.

Where is My Father suffers from a single flaw - it is betrayed by its writer’s political agenda which forces it to come to the happy ending that every other element of the story screams against. Dawkins clearly believes that the absence of fathers is an important social issue and that this situation needs to be reversed. Unfortunately, in order to ensure that his story carries this message, Dawkins sacrifices the lead character and almost cripples the story with an unrealistic happy ending. Dawkins creates this fierce, beautiful girl and then makes her the only character who does not get her just desserts. The wonderful familial image that rounds off the story seems to suggest that gang rape is something forgiveness alone can salve and this is an unacceptable conclusion.

Yet Dawkins is able to get away with this because in reality we are used to women bearing unspeakable ills and being told to forgive those who wronged them. And so, though the ending sticks going down, we swallow it because the rest of it was just so good.