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'Prism' breaks social issues into different colours - Hard-hitting topics did not attract expected audience

Published:Tuesday | July 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Shacile Harrison and Hasani Edwards are in tuned in Flames of Love.
Mijanne Reid performs 'Crimson Womb' showing the relationship between mother and child.
Upendi Jamaica performs a powerful piece during Prism.

On the surface, Upendi Jamaica's attempt to dissect life into different colours in the production Prism did not achieve what it was meant to. Budding director, performing and literary artist 19-year-old Orlando Heslop, alongside a team of individuals with similar talents, had expected that more of the seats inside the Lindo Hall at the Campion College would have been occupied - even though that was not the main aim.

"The turnout was a bit disappointing, but if 10 persons come, then we must perform for those 10 people," Heslop told The Gleaner.

The production, a synthesis of poetry, song and dance, is a glimpse into the social issues that young adults endure daily.

"From the core we are a mission-specific group of artists," said Heslop. "We were invested in social change and making theatre that has an impact, by dissecting life's issues using the art of the prism."


Colourful acts


The colourful acts that stood out included Tarred Feathers to the tune of Nina Simone's Black Bird; 'Flames of Love', a passionate two-person choreography executed by Shacile Harrison and Hasani Edwards, and 'Purple Hair', with two females performers speaking about sexual abuse.

"Many of the topics presented through Prism - for example, the third piece, 'Moonlight', the male performers walked for a greater portion of the dance doing the same moves, at almost the same timing, was meant to show issues men face," explained Heslop.

He added, "Men are not allowed to embrace each other based on the social thinking of true masculinity and the colours, blue then red, purple, and grey, which is the grey area (the heavy area), all match with the issues we face as young people."

The hard-hitting topics were moving and to the point. Adding to that, the musical selections and words spoken provoked thought. However, it was not enough for some members of the audience who expressed that they expected more. "To be honest, I was expecting a little more," Oral Reid told The Gleaner at the end of the show, as others sitting close by nodded in agreement.

Little to the audience's knowledge, the costumes arrived late on the opening night (just in time for the second half of the show, after intermission) which resulted in a late start and slightly obvious tension between the cast on stage.

Both nights had a similar attendance - a small mix of adolescents and adults, mostly family and friends of the cast members.

Heslop admitted that Upendi Jamaica's production last year, titled Kulcha Shock, had a lot more people, but serious theatre fans (as distinct from cultural musicals) are harder to attract.

But of note was the huge effort to make outreach less of an abstract concept with the final piece, 'Pink', a dance dedicated to the cause of the entire show - to raise money for donation to the Jamaica Cancer Society.