The Inspector – an original play written and directed by Simeon Moodoo; featuring choreography by Triston Wallace and performed by students of Naparima College on Wednesday 16th November 2016 at Naparima Bowl. It was a tale of murder, jailbreak and moral quandaries. With a well executed plot, interesting characters, and a versatile live band adding a layer of visceral energy, it was easy to sometimes forget that I was watching a troupe of inexperienced actors at the semi final rounds of the Secondary Schools’ Drama Festival.
The main actors, Daniel Baptiste and Justin Lee, playing the titular ‘Inspector’, and the savage ‘Monster’ respectively, did justice to their characters. Baptiste was alive, energetic, he occupied the stage with a fiery presence and grabbed hold of the audience’s attention easily. He seemed to take to the stage organically and I can’t help but hope that this festival isn’t the last time that he graces us with his talent. Lee also did well as ‘Monster’, evincing a palpable anger in his his low, growling voice and using his large frame to create an intimidating presence.
The other actors performed satisfactorily enough as well. While their inexperience was betrayed at times, especially the story sequence about the three men, by and large the ensemble managed to maintain the suspension of disbelief and carried the story well. An inspired bit of choreography with protest signs and black outfits showcased the work and dedication the students must have poured into the play. Monster’s flashback scenes were also quite memorable; his different memories freezing as tableaus as they bled into each other worked splendidly.
The technical aspects of the production were also quite effectively executed. The live musicians; the crunching, driven guitars, cacophonous drums and meaty basslines gave a rhythmic backbone that kept the action and movement of the play alive. Using the drum snare for the sound of a gunshot was one of my favorite little touches. The use of lighting to help with the manipulation of mood in emotionally charged scenes. The rise of Monster’s anger bathing the stage in harsh red light was particularly intense.
The play itself tackled some very interesting and complex themes. Does knowing the horrible and tortured past of a ‘bad’ person make their heinous actions excusable, or redeemable? Should punishment for such acts take this past into account? Such was the dilemma the Inspector seemed to be grappling with. His need to always hear “the full story” before passing judgement or taking action felt almost didactic in its morality. Does loyalty come before these morals? Is blind loyalty immoral? Will the corrupt systems running our country ever change? The play ends with a bang, leaving questions like these echoing in the minds of the audience like the echoes of a gunshot… A gunshot right in the heart of the moral spirit of our country.
In terms of engaging our youth in a productive and culturally significant environment, this play, and the festival from what I witnessed that day was a resounding success. It was easy to see how invested the students were in the productions. The way some of the actors, like the Inspector (Daniel Baptiste) and Monster (Justin Lee), took to the stage with vitality and enthusiasm, made the future of theater in Trinidad and Tobago seem bright and alive with hope. To see them engage so thoughtfully with material that contained actual depth and timely relevance was a strong rebuke to the detractors of our nations youth.
The Secondary Schools’ Drama Festival proved that with the right ingredients; engaging themes and characters, actors they can identify with, who speak for them instead of to them, young Trinbagonians can care about and enjoy theatre. If you need solid proof of this, just go to one of the plays in the festival and experience the deafening wave of teenage screams and shouts, the echoing and engulfing laughter and screeching whistles that come bursting from the audience as they watch their peers on stage. This is the reaction teenagers usually reserve for foreign celebrity being showered on their peers. The pure joy, the excitement, the ecstasy… it’s so easy to get swept up in it, You can’t help but feel like every school on stage is your alma mater too.
Naparima College will perform ‘THE INSPECTOR’ at the final rounds of the Secondary Schools’ Drama Festival on Sunday 27th November 2016, 5PM at Naparima Bowl. ADMISSION $50.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hey, Shazim Khan here! I’m a student of literature at UWI, which happened as a result of a long time fascination with words in all their various forms and mediums. I also have a deep affinity for the arts on the whole, especially music of all genres – I’m an amateur guitarist.
I’ve recently been introduced to the fascinating world of theatre. The spellbinding magic that can be so expertly conjured on stage has captivated me and inspired a desire to learn and experience as much as possible of this timeless and magnificent craft.