PCW production challenges the audience

Clement Payne gestures to workers
Curtis Gittens "Clement Payne" gestures as he 'ministers' to workers in Pinelands Creative Workshop's 2016 anniversary production Mirror Image.

Pinelands Creative Workshop has done it… again.  When you hear that the name of the production is Mirror Image you can’t help but form an opinion of what to expect. The interesting thing is that even though you get what you expect, it’s not delivered in the manner you may have expected, the message is subtle in some parts and audacious in others but underlying it there is a sobering glimpse at reality that is hard to deny.

Scripted, produced and directed by their CEO Rodney Grant the production is clearly personal and you can sense it mirroring his own journey as a community activist. The production itself is like a bus excursion through time with some surprise stops and guest appearances from influential figures in the island’s history, some long gone and some very much alive. 

The message was dispensed in small dosages. It demonstrated the anguish of the transatlantic slave trade through rhythms and movements that invoked images of the slaves toiling under the weight of back breaking work. The revolutionary times of the nineteen thirties was reproduced through the passionate speeches of civill rights leaders mixed onto a soundtrack of negro spirituals; and the pride and self awareness of the periods that followed were celebrated in true West Indian style.

The anchor of the Mirror Image channel presenting her perspective of "news".

The anchor of the Mirror Image channel presenting the “news”.

Throughout the entire production a battle of the classes played out on stage that presented two distinct perspectives of the island’s reality. And while the audience largely sided with the working class protagonist they seemed to be keenly aware of how the other side rationalised its own view of the world. Even without the combatant’s relative stage positions, realistic costumes and contrasting lighting the two narrators vividly highlighted how far apart we all can be on the map of social classes.

On its own the diversity of the cast was extraordinary but their enthusiasm, timing and execution sets Pinelands Creative Workshop in a league of their own. The timing and the transitions were nearly flawless and the audience rippled through time with just enough time to stop applauding, exhale and try to figure when their next stop in time would be and with whom.

The bravest moment of the evening came with the deeply personal story of the PCW’s struggle to be recognised as an institution and to have its work recognised as art; the piercing irony of this segment was not lost on anyone in the audience.

The full cast received rapturous applause.

The full cast received rapturous applause.

By the time the full cast made their way on stage for the final number PCW had paid homage to both the regional commonalities and the local uniqueness of the Barbadian experience. They reminded us of the actions and contexts of our political, cultural and religious journeys from the slave ships to, what they suggested was a form of a freedom ship, our very special land ship movement.

Mirror Image was clearly conceived to contextualise our fiftieth anniversary of independence as more than a celebration of what we have achieved. Some members in the audience would have experienced the full effects of this message straight away while others may have felt it on the way home and some the morning after but in the end I believe Pinelands is trying to reminds us of our civic duty to be a positive influence in our community.

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