The Theatreguide.London Review
On A Rainbow Shawl
Cottesloe Theatre Spring 2012
A poor urban neighbourhood holds a variety of characters who live in a delicate harmony despite or perhaps because of each having dramas of their own.
A couple can't afford to send their bright daughter to the superior school she deserves. A jolly whore gets along with some and offends others by her very presence. A courting couple's happiness is threatened when her pregnancy clashes with his determination to get away and find more of a future elsewhere.
Decisions are made, sometimes on the spur of the moment, that change lives for good or bad, and things end generally worse than they were at the beginning.
If I told you that the author was Irish, you could immediately picture the Dublin slum and even start casting the play in your mind. If I said it was by Clifford Odets, you'd see the New York tenement, the multi-ethnic neighbourhood and the Jewish boy dreaming of becoming a writer or musician. If I said the characters were all British working class, you'd sketch out in your mind a week's worth of EastEnders episodes.
The only original touch about Moon On A Rainbow Shawl is that playwright Errol John was from Trinidad and the play is set in Port of Spain.
And that may be enough. The exotic setting, the music of the dialect and the too-rare sight of a stage full of Afro-Carribean actors can be enough to revitalise the formula, hold your attention and empathy, and help you forget that you've seen this all before.
The play centres on Ephraim, the ambitious young man who actually has a decent job with prospects of promotion but sees life in Trinidad as a dead end from which he must escape to an unknown but surely better life in England. Danny Sapani lets us see the unending internal battle between his real love for Jade Anouka's Rosa and his honourable moral sense on the one side and his absolute conviction that he is fighting for his life on the other.
The second moral and emotional focus of the play is not so much Rosa as Sophia, the young girl's mother, and the character most committed to holding things together, both in her home and in the extended family of her neighbours. Martina Laird fleshes out and deepens what could be a stock figure, and helps give the play an O'Casey feel by reminding us that it is always the women who are left trying to put things back together when they crumble.
That this production transcends the inescapable sense of deja vu at all is a credit to director Michael Buffong and the dedicated cast, which also includes such reliable stalwarts as Jenny Jules, Burt Caesar and Jude Akuwudike.
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