A renaissance of the grand old lady of performing arts?
by Raschid Osman
Guyana Chronicle
March 30, 2003

Related Links: Articles on arts
Letters Menu Archival Menu

THE old Theatre Guild Playhouse on Parade Street, Kingston, is moving into the spotlight once again. After all these years.

Chances are the grand old lady of the performing arts will experience a renaissance, and will once again become the mecca for serious theatre.

And not a moment too soon. For we have all but forgotten what good, intimate theatre is. We have become de-sensitised to the magic of an important art form which once flourished in our midst, and we have become accustomed to a poor substitute, the bland efforts of aspiring theatre folk and their uninspiring offerings.

Time was when the Theatre Guild Playhouse was the place where it was at, with the resident T.G. folk and their competent productions, along with groups which had cut their teeth at Bookers Sugar Estates workshops and in the auditoriums of St. Rose's and Bishops' and all that.

Among the important players were Michael Gilkes and Ken Corsbie and Marc Matthews and Eileen McAndrew and Pat Cameron and Pat Gomes and Clairmont Taitt and Yonette D'Andrade and Margaret Kellman-Lawrence.

They were serious, committed amateur players, spilling over into the preserve of the professional as they bristled with considerable talent.

Margaret Lawrence recalls what it was like then, almost three decades ago, when drama was fun and theatre people were never happier than when they were in the confines of the small, intimate playhouse.

"It was there that we learnt a great deal from each other," she reminisces.

"There were workshops and we under-studied directors," she recalls. "We not only performed, but we worked at the front of the house and in costumes and at the box-office. We were well rounded and committed, and we found that a good dose of humility was necessary to our doing well."

Margaret Lawrence remembers that she had most fun at the Playhouse when she played the blind heroine in Wait Until Dark, a role she prepared for by visiting the Blind Institute and observing how unsighted people moved.

It paid off well, for she turned in a performance so creditable that the critics `oohed’ and `aahed’ in newspaper columns.

The rush of good drama at the Playhouse was so intense that there were not enough Guyanese and regional drama to keep it going. And so, besides Frank Pilgrim’s Miriamy, with a memorable performance by Lorna Lampkin, and Michael Gilkes' Couvade, the Theatre Guild presented Hamlet, and Send Me No Flowers and Kind Lady and The Fantastiks and Mother Courage, to name a few.

This, our very own Golden Age of theatre, lasted from the early sixties into the late eighties, when the National Cultural Centre became the place to be at, with its vast auditorium, and its expansive stage which killed the intimacy to which theatre-goers had grown accustomed to at the Playhouse.

Last weekend, at the now run-down Playhouse on Parade Street, a group of Theatre Guild committee members and other theatre lovers gathered in retreat to look at reviving the moribund Guild and its shabby Playhouse.

They came up with an interim task force to spearhead the challenging move to resuscitate the Guild. Members of the committee include Ron Robinson, Enrico Woolford, Russell Lancaster, Pat Liverpool, Malcolm DeFreitas and Phyllis Jackson, who represented the Culture Ministry.

The task force seems to be a vibrant one, and one is confident that at last something positive is to be done about the Playhouse.

Chances are that in the not too distant future the theatre-lover will be able to sit in the cosy Playhouse once again, to be entertained by drama and comedies and musicals staged with competence and panache.

As Eliza Doolittle would say, "Wouldn't it be loverly."

Site Meter