Moon On A Rainbow Shawl (review). Performances hold your attention in gritty drama

We imagine life in the Caribbean must be idyllic so it came as a bit of revelation to discover that domestic crises are the same the world over.

Thursday, 6th March 2014, 5:57 pm
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Errol John’s domestic drama Moon On A Rainbow Shawl, a joint production from the National and Talawa Theatre Companies, playing at Watford Palace Theatre this week, is set in mid-1950s Trinidad at a time when Britain was trying to coax workers to leave the commonwealth and aid the depleted home workforce.

It’s a story of failed dreams and disappointments and reminded me of August Wilson’s recently revived Fences with Lenny Henry.

Both stories have strong matriarchs; both feature flawed husbands who fails to capitalise on their early sporting successes; both deal with unplanned teen pregnancies and family members whose futures are dashed by the reckless actions of another.

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Moon is slow-paced (a bit like the Caribbean lifestyle) but absolutely absorbing. You wait forever for the story to kick in only to discover it nestling in the last 20 minutes of the play.

The acting is uniformly superb which makes it worthwhile sticking with the drama. Each character is flesh and blood, flawed and universally familiar.

It’s set in a shanty community - a collection of one-room shacks built around a yard that is owned by the lecherous Old Mack (overplayed by Burt Caesar).

He seems to own most of the town including a café run by the pretty, and young, Rosa, and assumes that she is part of the fixtures and fittings. His behaviour is enough to make your skin crawl.

Rosa’s boyfriend, Ephraim, is intent on quitting his dead end job as a trolleybus driver and emigrating to Liverpool. Okezie Morro’s powerful portrayal of a man driven by blind ambition is difficult to watch as his single-mindedness breaks hearts.

Also in the yard is the incorrigible Mavis, a prostitute. Bethan Mary James holds your attention every time she sashays down her rickety steps and into the arms of yet another serviceman.

Loud voice, loud tight clothes, and bags of attitude. She’s a woman who clearly enjoys her work and the character offers moments of light relief amid the turmoil affecting the other residents, the Adams family.

Long suffering Sophie Adams tries to keep the family together for the sake of her children – 12-year-old Esther, who has won a scholarship to high school, and her newborn baby.

Husband Charlie, a former promising cricketer, likes the drink a little too much.

Martina Laird’s authentic Trinidadian accent can, on occasions, be difficult to understand, but, my god, can she nag. It’s no wonder Charlie looks for a quiet life and Ephraim wants to escape..

Tahirah Sharif’s Esther is a little ray of sunshine who becomes the innocent victim in the whole sorry saga.

It’s a compelling and sometimes shocking story about ordinary, everyday folk, trying to scratch out a future for themselves.

Moon On A Rainbow Shawl runs until Saturday. For tickets call the box office 01923 225671 or visit www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk