Saturday, April 20, 2024

Block play not for faint of heart


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If you want to know about the block subculture then you need to see the one act play, On The Block,  written by playwright Glenville Lovell and directed by Nala.

It explores the block subculture while offering the audience an insight into the way of life for a group of youngsters – Blackeye, Skins, Trip, Tek Nine and Boyland – who meet and hang out there as they negotiate issues and emotions of love, trust, physical abuse, pain, happiness and survival while battling their insecurities.

The block is a business place where transactions are done. It is a source of inspiration, a creative space as it were for budding poets, a meeting spot, a haven for them where they could be themselves, express their dreams and speak of troubles at home and the one place where outsiders such as Officer Edwards and newspaper columnist Bill who came looking for Boyland who disappeared after Goose was killed, are treated with suspicion.

Presented by The Gap Theatre and starring the students of the Barbados Community College’s theatre arts programme, it is not for children under 16 years old as there is strong language that some people may find offensive.

That probably made it more relatable – that there was no huge attempt to change or clean up what happens on the (some?) blocks for the audience. With the first expletive in the opening scene, came the first collective gasp but after that the audience realised this is the real deal and there was more to come.

The strong use of dialect and profanity may have been subtler than in some real communities, but generally nothing was done to paint a different picture of the subculture and double standards that exist and that some people would rather ignore.

This does not mean that Lovell’s interpretation is an accurate depiction of every single block across the country, but there was a realness in the play that forced people to deal with it – the acting, directing, language, clothes, sound, set, and the lighting all worked.

The story opens with  three people playing cards in the background and the friends reminiscing after the funeral of mentor and father figure Goose who touched their lives. There was uncertainty about how they would survive without their protector who was killed days prior.

There, they paid tribute to the man who gave them hope and who encouraged them to believe they did not have to be defined by their circumstances. They drank some Hennessy in his memory, said a poem and wondered how their lives would change.

One of the scenes that stood out was with the persistent Officer Edwards, Bill and Blackeye who wanted to find Boyland. It showed the youngsters that he too was fighting his own battle and wanted to improve his life, albeit through blackmail.

As scenes changed with weeks speeding by, each one showed how the youngsters worked through their difficulties.

Some of their dreams were realised, friendships were broken and later mended, secrets and motives were revealed, bonds were strengthened through illness and love, the hypocrisy and double standards that existed were disclosed and through it all the youngsters handled it.

In the end, they all came together on the block to commemorate the anniversary of Goose’s death, having grown individually. (GBM)


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