Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell’s Residency: Week 4 Report

iakobi-maloney-001Ah boy, what a week, what a time, what an experience. So last week I turned to my third superpower, directing. As stated in a previous blog, I decided to take two scenes and these are the scenes I felt were somewhat ready. The whole play is still under development. Both scenes will be treated as a reading/dramaturgy. I prefer to present them for those purposes, for constructive criticism and to hear it out loud and to make the necessary changes.

In casting I chose three of my members from Yardie Boy Theatre as well as other performers who I am currently ‘scouting’ for my company. We have a thing that you must do three finished productions to be a part of the company, based on talent, professionalism and chemistry. Cast is as follows:

Levi King

Deevon Clinton

Kim Weekes

Adrian Green

Dorhonda Smith

Joseph Volney

Teila Williams

We had three days to do rehearsals, two being at Fresh Milk and one at the Good Life café. Being with most of my cast the first day and their reading the excerpt for the first time, they all agreed they felt it was a necessary piece to do. Deevon felt Yardie Boy is always pushing the envelope and without apology bringing pertinent issues to the fore. Adrian felt the conversation between mother and son felt authentic and really mimics I’Akobi’s and Maggie’s character. They were all happy to be a part of the piece.

The scenes I chose are the following:

The In-Terror-Gation

The company or the body of actors started off with one of Emperor Haile Selassie I’s most famous speech ‘War’ (most famously known when Bob Marley ‘musicalized’ into the song ‘War’.

I chose this speech because of the ongoing tribal war and friction between the armed forces and Rastafarians and other indigenous spiritual concepts in the Caribbean. The profiling is real, it is not a myth. When Selassie spoke these words that were very uncomfortable to an audience at the UN, his beloved Ethiopia was under siege by Italy, being the last free sovereign African state. Not to be mistaken as a speech of defeat, but a warning of what you put in, you will get back.

“…And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war…”

The scene captures the three policemen’s (Adrian Green, Deevon Clinton & Joseph Volney) testimony of the event that took place on the day that I’Akobi died. I chose to break the 4th wall and let the characters address the audience to plead their case of innocence and how they respond in matters of dealing with ‘suspicious characters with dread locks’. The dialogue goes in and out of two spaces, one where the characters explain how the procedure works and the other dialogue in dealing with how they felt dealing with I’Akobi. The actor playing I’Akobi (Levi King) stayed silent, slumped over bareback in boxer shorts with his locks draped over his face. The policemen repeated the mantra ‘We have done nothing wrong, we took orders and we followed them’.

After the final mantra, the singers Deevon, Dorhonda and Teila broke into song ‘Guiltiness’ by Bob Marley (I’m a huge Bob fan, as I am writing this, I’m listening to Bob).

Conversations II

As stated previously, I am experimenting with the notion of ancestral conversations between I’Akobi and his mother Maggie. This scene Conversations II, brings about the reason for the colour Red and its significance to his funeral and to this play. I’Akobi converses with Maggie about his defiance against death, his love for his spirituality all through professing his immortality. When you really study it, the brother isn’t dead at all. His graduation picture is ever present all around Barbados, from shirts, posters, pins, murals, the internet, I’m sure its gonna be just as iconic to Barbados sometime as Che’ Gueverra’s image in Cuba…doan laff…I serious. An image of injustice and immortality.

I decided to use the image of the pieta, for those who don’t know, that is image done by Michelangelo depicting Mary holding Christ’s naked tortured body after the crucifixion.  During this, Maggie wraps her son in a large red clothe. “…Red is the sign of life…Once you plant me in Red, I will never die…”

After the scene, the singers sang ‘Selassie is the Chapel’, Bob Marley’s last recorded song about his devotion to his savior. Within the scene I’Akobi talks about his devotion to his faith and how he wants to be planted into the ground through Selassie’s name. I had a conversation with Adrian Green about some people who always have that thought provoking conversation in which they describe how they see death and how they want their celebration to be. I remembered talking to my best friend Michael St.Hill before he died when we were 17, he said he wanted to live to 100, and last year in memory of 10 years of his passing, I sprayed painted on my set of ‘De Angry Black Boy Tantrums’ ‘RIP Mikey’.

One of the patrons and fellow artist Sheena Rose said she felt eerie about seeing Levi’s locks covering his face with his locks, and the stigma dread locks still hold till this day. Though the actor was faceless, it didn’t matter it could happen to anyone.

Friend and fellow theatre practitioner Ayesha Gibson-Gill credits my mentor Sonia Williams for her strong influence on me for tackling ritual theatre and the good effort into it.

The response from the audience was very positive one. We recorded the performances and posted it on youtube here.

So far the biggest question we have been getting is ‘when is the full product coming out’. I really cannot answer yet, I’m still working on this draft and will continue to work on it to perfection and till I am ready to showcase it.

I wanna large up and big up de massive and put de people pun God and Goddess status:

Annalee, Katherine, Ewan, Conan, Marla, Mica & Rico for great hospitality and the opportunity at Fresh Milk.

My Yardie Boy Theatre family and performers involved in the process. Vi, Kimmerts, Green, Joe,  Jennalee, Dee, Tequila and the fun 3 nights.

The Good Life Café, for the one good night for our reading.

Sonia Williams for the large uncontrollable red clothe

My art family for coming, doesn’t matter who came late, you came.

The Justice Committee, Ayesha, Kudos and of course Mother Maggie for the support and love.

To a special person who called and check up on me and kept me positive, you know who you are.

An’ de largest one, de Fada above who bestowed upon me talents and surrounded me with wonderful people in my life.

YARDIE BOY THEATRE, de REALIST TE’ATUH BOUT BIM

I

AM

I’AKOBI!!!

“…A house built on granite and strong foundations
not even the onslaught of pouring rain
gushing torrents
and strong winds
will able to pull down.
Some people have written the story of my life
representing of truth
what in fact derives from
ignorance
error
or envy.
But they cannot shake the truth from its place
Even if attempt to make others believe it…”

–  Emperor Haile Selassie I

FRESH MILK XI

We’re delighted to share some images from FRESH MILK XI, which took place on Thursday May 30th from 7:00 – 8:30pm. The event featured local and international resident artists Matthew Kupakwashe MurrellMarla Botterill and Conan Masterson sharing works produced during their recent Fresh Milk Residencies.

A reading from 'The Brightest Red'

Matthew, a Barbadian playwright and actor, presented a reading of an excerpt from “The Brightest Red – The Life and Death of I’Akobi Maloney,” which he began writing on the Fresh Milk platform:

I chose this topic because it spoke to me. I’Akobi Maloney and I are both born the same year, 6 months apart. Two weeks after his crossing, I remembered being stopped and harassed by a policeman for no reason. At the time I had an afro which I wore wild and drove a car many wouldn’t be proud seeing. But like I’Akobi, I was an intelligent young man scrutinized not for what is in my head but what is on top of my head. I do believe in the work of ICAR, The Justice Committee and the Maloney Family to fight for justice. This could happen to anyone’s son and anyone’s daughter. 

–         Excerpt from Matthew Kupakwahse Murrell’s residency blog.

To watch clips of the performance, featuring actors Levi King, Kim Weekes, Deevon Clinton, Adrian Green, Joseph Volney, Dorhonda Smith and Teila Williams, click here.

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Canadian visual artists Marla and Conan showcased their collaborative video shorts and puppets created from materials found around the Fresh Milk premises and Barbados:

In conversations with the people here we’ve learned of the caves beneath us.  As fellow resident, Mathew Kupakwashe Murrell pointed out to us, the whole island is formed over limestone caves.  Is this a space where are puppet characters could come from?  Have they bubbled up from the dark, damp, mysterious caves beneath to the lush, sun-filled land above?  How long have they been here?  How have they evolved to live on this island?  They are taking on characteristics of the vegetation, animal, insect, bird and amphibian life above, but there is an unnerving quality to them, they come from that place of mystery.  In the past two weeks we have jointly created a small ensemble of puppet creatures that will continue to grow but now we must listen to them, hear their stories and take them out of the studio and allow them to explore this island where they come from.

–          Excerpt from Marla Botterill and Conan Masterson’s residency blog.

The artists spoke about their residency experiences, which was followed by a Q&A session. Thanks so much to Matthew, Marla and Conan for a fantastic month – Fresh Milk will miss you, and we wish you all the best following your residency!

All photographs © Dondré Trotman

Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell’s Residency: Week 3 Report

photo (1)

If anyone who knows me when it comes to writing, I can be very paranoid. In art I don’t believe anything can reach perfection, but the chase to unattainable perfection is a journey to become greater at what you do. Some may see that as destructive, but if you reach the top of the mountain where else can you go? Forget reaching moon, stars and clouds, I prefer to prove Pluto could still be a planet.  So as I enter my final week, I’m still in slight disbelief that my residency will end in a matter of days. Boy, when time flies, it flies! I didn’t get everything that I wanted for my script, but however I am satisfied for what I have as a first draft. A story has been developed, my scene objectives are clear and characters have some depth. I’m still going to work on the script beyond the time frame of this residency. A lot of work I have to do. The journey was a rewarding one and I’ve grown as a writer as I should.

One part of the week I did some extension and cleaning on scenes. The way I wrote the story, was by just writing scenes and puzzling them together. Every scene I asked myself ‘what is the metaphor?’ thinking of different ways to tell the situation. I realize my scenes were fairly short, not sure if that was a good or bad thing, but I got my point across without being didactic or repetitive, so I guess that’s not too bad. Plus, I’ve been writing pieces how I would personally direct them, that way I have a security blanket of being organized, precise and the work is tight. Of course, that direction and script can change! Which is ok, it has more room than 8 bedroom house for improvement.

Now for the second and final part of my residency which is preparing to showcase my work. With that, I would be showcasing my third strength, my directing skills. For those who don’t know the first, that would be acting (some think I’m a stronger writer than actor, doesn’t matter, I love both).  So I will be doing two excerpts of two scenes from my latest project ‘The Brightest Red’. I prefer the number 3, I have a thing for the trinity, but the spirit of the play isn’t finished, so wunna getting 2! So I won’t give out too much information about the two scenes but I will tell you this much, the scenes will have actors, poets, singers and dancers. I just hope I’m not being overzealous, which I don’t think I am. There was some difficulty in casting, as usual. Transportation would’ve been the issue for most people. Some people wanted to be a part of it but other things would’ve hindered the opportunity. I know most would ask why not people from Yardie Boy Theatre, I usually look and scout other talents, and if we work well, and everything gels together, then I’ve added to the production company. So far my cast comprises of Levi King, Kim Weekes, Adrian Green, Deevon Clinton, Dorhonda Smith, Ashley ‘Skittlez’ Garnes, Joseph Volney and Teila Williams. I’m currently in the process of trying to find a male dancer, one who can mirror Levi.

This week, my theatre family from Jamaica Quilt Performing Arts Company (QPAC) performed on a Jamaican morning show, Smile Jamaica. They did their award winning piece ’73…….?’, a piece about the Tivoli Gardens massacre which took place three years ago surrounding the extradition of kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. I could easily say this was one of the pieces that inspired the style of directing I have been experimenting with for a year now. A multimedia piece with dance, song and acting to tell the stories of a tragedy that marred Jamaica in recent history. What I love about this performing arts group, is that when I did my research for documentaries about the massacre, everything that I came across would’ve been overseas documentaries, local or international news media. These young performers to my knowledge were the only ones I saw documenting this catastrophe. The voices of the people, from their stand point. The voices of the people, the victim’s story, they didn’t allow for anyone else to tell their story. Large up Rayon McLean, Nadia Roxburgh and the talented members of QPAC. Another artist in action, hailing from Jamaica, Randy ‘Kreativ Aktivis’ McLaren, who is doing his part documenting the Armadale tragedy, where 6 young Jamaican women perished in a fire by bombing in a government industrial school. His work like mine is pushing for an inquiry for justice for the victims and their families.

In approaching a festival where creativity is becoming scarce and true lyricists have their work cut short by CBC, reformatted by NCF or little to no air play on radio stations for their stance on pertinent issues in Barbados, we need artists to remain strong and not buy into the bullshit for a silver sand dollar but rather in the interest of headucating the masses. Last Friday, I heard the music from the Cavalcade which was slated down the road from Fresh Milk, ah well…there goes my peace. Not that I don’t engage in Crop Over (I barely do, but I love some of the music, don’t get me wrong), I’m just not into tourist art or a bastardised culture for money making purposes. My favorite part is Pic-O-De-Crop, because I love it when artists can attack powers that be, but as I said before, muzzles are now an accessory. We seem to love to put on a show for tourists as well, a fairly coonish show at that. Never liked the concept of tourist art, we love to give them flying fish, without the Bajan seasoning (pick sense from it, nuh!). Ah well, lemme not go on a tangent.

Remember people, May 30th, Fresh Milk! Come and support Marla (Happy earthday!) & Conan as well as yours truly in ‘The Brightest Red’.

“…A purely materialistic art would be like a tree which is expected to bear fruit without flowering and to sacrifice grace and beauty for mere utility…”

“A well informed public opinion is essential to the growth of political and social awareness. Only he who is informed can comment intelligently on his nation’s development and only by such comments can errors be corrected and progress stimulated”

-Emperor Haile Selassie I

FRESH MILK XI

fm xi flyer

 
On Thursday May 30th at 7:00pm, local and international resident artists Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell, Marla Botterill and Conan Masterson will share works produced during the recent Fresh Milk Residency programme.
 
Matthew presents a reading of an excerpt from “The Brightest Red – The Life and Death of I’Akobi Maloney” and Marla and Conan showcase their collaborative video shorts and puppets.
 
The artists will speak about their residency experiences which will be followed by a Q&A session.
 
The event is free and open to the public. For more information on the residencies, view the artists’ blog entries below, and see our About page for directions to FRESH MILK. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates!

A Performative Moment – Presentation for Northern Kentucky University

On Thursday May 16th, FRESH MILK presented a programme to group of visiting students from the department of theatre and dance at Northern Kentucky University, USA. Presentations were made by Barbadian artists Ewan Atkinson, Sheena Rose and Shanika Grimes, local playwright, actor and artist in residence Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell, our two international resident artists Marla Botterill and Conan Masterson, and our off-site resident artist Damali Abrams who joined us via skype. All of the participants engaged in discussion with the students on performance, and the many forms it can take in the arts.

All photographs taken by Mark King.