Upon entering the Central Bank Auditorium last Thursday October 8, 2015 for the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies’ Production of Hatuey – A Play by Raoul Pantin which was directed by Rawle Gibbons I got the sense that I was about to witness the opening of a time capsule and the unfolding of a treasure. Having an opportunity hear the members of the audience reminisce about the good old days when the play was first staged further ignited my anticipation.
The play Hatuey is Pantin’s dramatic interpretation of the legendary Taino warrior who fled [to] Haiti in the aftermath of Columbus’ landing and sailed to Cuba to alert and organise indigenous communities against the imminent invasion of the Spanish.
~ Hatuey -The Play, Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies
The play highlighted the struggles and conflicts the Tainos experienced but interestingly the conflicts of the Spanish were also evident.
On a great intimate stage such as the one in Central Bank there is a tremendous amount of pressure for actors to be completely immersed in their roles because absolutely nothing would be missed by the audience. The performances of the Tainos were stronger and more compelling. I must admit that I am a huge fan of Nickolai Salcedo and his portrayal of Hatuey was extremely captivating. Salcedo was able to tap into that intensity which I believe would be required for a proud Taino warrior fighting for his lands and people who were being massacred. He was hands down my favourite performance of the night. As Hatuey’s mentor, Tumanaro (Arnold Goindhan) attempted to be the voice of reason who could somehow quell the violence that was ensuing at the time. I found Goindhan performance was commendable and I enjoyed the dynamics with Salcedo. The Taino women had more silent moments within the play which I believe require just as much commitment as the dramatic scenes. Sadly, there were moments when I felt that the women fell out of character and looked a bit lost on stage.
On the other hand, the performances by the Spaniards were a bit disappointing. Though the “New World” was described as a clump of bush infested by mosquitoes and heathens which were the Indians I never truly felt the disgust. I expected more of an air of superiority, a sense of entitlement and even some arrogance from the Spaniards which I found were all lacking. Though I applaud Martin Daly’s bravery in the debut performance as the Governor, Don Berrio Hernandez, there were moments I felt that the performance was lack lustered and unconvincing. Also, Fabrice Barker as Manuel de Ortega came across more as an insolent child throwing tantrums as opposed to an imposing soldier which made the role laughable. I would have loved Barker’s intensity to match that of Salcedo’s. However, Fr. Dominic Las Casas (Che Rodriguez) gave the most scintillating performance as the pious yet passionate priest who advocated on behalf of the Tainos and strived to save their souls by converting them to Christianity.
In the end I am a sucker for a good period piece. The costumes (designed by Paulette Alfed) were brilliant and though Edwin Erminy‘s set was minimalist, it was functional. There was great use of the multi-leveled stage and space by the actors while the sound effects and Ken Joseph‘s lighting brought the story to life.
The Story of Hatuey and many others which chronicle the injustices suffered by the Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean deserve to form part of our oral tradition. I thought the play Hatuey was a wonderful reminder of the power of strong will and conviction even in the face of death.
The following poem has no relation to the review but it was in the program and thought I’d share it with you:
We cannot return to Eden
This sky must first turn stone, the sea
Empty itself into desert dry as bone, hills
Stripped naked of green, our laughter turns tears for
Innocence is once
Hatuey continues at the Central Bank Auditorium 15-18 October 2015. For bookings please call the Lloyd Best Institute at 663 5463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com