Trevor Nairne, Barbara Gloudon’s shoes ‘too big to be filled’
Two giants of theatre die days apart
The Jamaican theatre industry, in the first half of May, is mourning the loss of two legendary figures, Trevor Nairne and Barbara Gloudon, whose contributions, like their shoes, are immeasurable. Last Friday, the news of Nairne’s passing hit the headlines, and five days later, Gloudon took leave from all her earthly belongings.
Senior adviser in the culture and entertainment ministry, Lenford Salmon, who has a bond with the theatre giants, said that their deaths join a list of recent losses in theatre “that we are going to find extremely difficult to replace”.
“It is a tremendous, tremendous loss, these individuals outside of having lost – 10 to 12 years ago – Professor Rex Nettleford and Barry Chevannes, and since COVID-19, Volier Johnson and Buddy Pouyat in the past year, leaves a space within the industry,” Salmon told The Gleaner.
Having operated Jambiz International with Nairne, Salmon said that it has been hard to process the death of his business partner, friend, and brother. Described as a “a creative genius with a calm disposition”, Nairne was the man behind the Grand Gala concepts.
“Trevor had done many galas before I even met him, having worked at the JCDC, but we decided we had some ideas that could take it to different places. He just had this knack to come up with these wonderful creative things that would move the gala to a different level. If one was to give credit to the successful galas, at least 70 per cent was his creativity, and he could go wild sometimes, which I would help to manage,” he said. “I hardly ever saw Trevor flustered. He was just someone who was hardly bothered and knew he would achieve whatever he set out to do, calmly, to the annoyance of some, even myself. What I learnt from Trevor you can’t go university to learn it. Trevor had his own university of the creative arts, the ‘University of Epic Theatre’. I, like many others, learnt so much at his feet. I could now go create a grand gala of my own in tribute to Trevor only because of what I learnt from him.”
Salmon had much to share about Gloudon, who provided him with the opportunity to become part of the management of the Little Theatre Movement at a young age. Gloudon was a listener, willing to accept contribution and creative input from her colleagues.
“I have worked with other writers who literally get attached to the words they put on paper, meaning you can’t change a word, and the spirit about Mrs G was that she recognised the importance of collaboration in the artistic effort, and she believed firmly that a script is nothing but a script that must come to life on stage. She always insisted the best write is to rewrite,” he shared.
“The fondest memories happened by her home. I had the privilege of spending a couple of days in Gordon Town, especially on Saturdays, during the times she created pantomime and the radio drama, Wrong Moves. I remember her gungo peas soup. She wouldn’t even know is the gungo peas soup and not the artistic effort why I was there. The artistic effort is the fringe benefit. She was a caring soul, and her legacy lives on. She did create an outstanding legacy in theatre, likewise journalism.”
Veteran musician and composer Grub Cooper said the space that Gloudon held, in terms of theatre and in his heart, will never be filled. “Those shoes are very large because she was extremely accomplished, and theatre would have gained through imparting her knowledge,” he said.
He added: “She was almost like a mother figure, and that was sometimes misunderstood, but by and large, a mother to the younger actors and actresses, and she was my partner in musical theatre. She was excellent with the songs she penned that I would put together the melodies for.”
Terri Salmon, one of the successful actresses who Gloudon took under her wing, almost like a mother hen, said she is “saddened” and moreso because both the pantomime giant and Nairne, who she lists as one of her top three directors, have exited stage left never to return.
“I am just so saddened that no one will understand. Mrs Gloudon is the person who decided I, a dancer with the Jamaica Institute of Dance at the time, was to become an actress and gave me my first line on stage and my first role in a pantomime. From there, there was no looking back, and she started to have workshops to develop the pantomime actors and dancers, which I participated in and then transitioned into acting on stage,” Salmon shared.
“I became close to her and her family. So their loss is my loss. Just as I was close to Trevor. It was painful for me to see Trevor in the state I last saw him. I knew him from the 1970s when I used to enter festivals as a child, and he was associated with St Anne’s dancers. He knew how to direct a stage and direct any script … even comedy. Not a lot of directors can do that. I remember how I squeezed his hand as he lay there in the bed. There was a coy smile, and I will keep that forever in my mind. Rest in peace,” she concluded.