Guyana: The Theatre Guild Requires Historical Information – By Ricardo Smith

Theatre Guild. Guyana

EMAIL FROM RICARDO SMITH:

Here I am in Guyana and have been asked by the THEATRE GUILD hierarchy to talk to them about the BRINK SHOWS which the THEATRE GUILD  did in the 1960’s, as they would like to resuscitate the concept

They would like to hear …..

  • How and why the idea started ….
  • How they were created/put together…..
  • Who directed and produced the shows
  • My mind is totally blank on these shows…. if any one out there can give me some information to pass on it would be great

ALSO.. info required about: GUYANA LEGEND 1966 

For those with long enough memories this was the first production in an independent GUYANA  and was held on Saturday May 28, 1966.

  • There is interest in updating Guyana Legend and I am working with young Keon Heywood to do so.
  • Keon would like to touch base with any of the cast if they are still around to get any memories they might have  of the production and this moment in time in Guyana’s History

THE CAST INCLUDED:

  • ZAC ……..MIKE HUGGINS
  • CRITCH ….MILTON BRUCE
  • ROSA………CLAIRE BOWEN
  • ROBERT ….ROBERT NARAIN ( DECEASED)
  • AUNT MAY ..PAULINE THOMAS
  • PUNTY ……..KEITH MASSIAH
  • KUMAR………VIDNAUTH MOHABIR
  • JOMO….MAURICE BRAITHWAITE
  • WHITE PLANTERS…..DENNIS LILLEYMAN  (DECEASED), KEN STRIKE , TERRY WILLIAMS STANLEY RIDLEY  (DECEASED).
  • WOODSIDE CHOIR MEMBERS
  • JOHN BUNBURY AND THE NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
  • PELICAN STEEL ORCHESTRA MEMBERS

For any one interested I have a critique written by a young Francis Farrier on June 12 1966 in the Sunday Graphic which I can send to them.

Fond regards to all.

From: Ricardo Smith – ricsmit3300@gmail.com

FACEBOOK: Theatre Guild of Guyana

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Comments

  • essequibomusic  On March 22, 2018 at 6:55 am

    Hi Ricardo

    Good to hear from you.

    I have passed your request to Marc Matthews.

    Please find attached information on my Band “ The Macusi Players ”.

    Best wishes,

    Keith

    Keith Waithe

    Web: http://www.keithwaithe.com

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On March 23, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Hello Ricardo:
    Good to hear a ‘voice’ from the long gone past.

    This is “VIDNAUTH MOHABIR” part of ‘Cast’ of Guyana Legend, (properly, Veda Nath Mohabir – Wordsworth McAndrew would always fuss with me (over drinks at El Globo) if I didn’t insist on corrections to the spelling and pronunciation of my name).

    I have taken this window of time to respond, even though a friend (Keith Fernandes) drew my attention to your request a few days ago. Very busy with trying to complete a book challenging historian, Clem Seecharan for maligning the Indentured Labourers and Indo-Guyanese, India and Hindus, especially. So, unfortunately, won’t have more time to enter into too much dialogue on your request. Here is what I remember.

    I was in both the ‘Brink’ (two of 3) shows and ‘Guyana Legend’ (as the Cast of characters shows).
    I was ‘scouted’ by the Theatre Guild (TG) for the first or second Brink show. Someone had seen me in a GT Dramatic Club show (Sweet Karila, I believe) and asked the president, Mrs. Dorothy Bailey (who was also GT Mayor, at the time). She called me at work (Treasury Dept, Public Bldgs) and recommended I go to TG as it would give both the Dramatic Club me and more visibility.
    TG wanted someone to play Dr. Jagan (coincidentally, yesterday Mar 22, 2018 was his centenary birth anniversary) and as there were just couple Indians regularly in the theatre (Robert Naraine and myself) I seemed to fit the bill. (More on the part in a while).

    There were three Brink shows (as I recollect) – On the Brink, Brink Top, and Over the Brink. Each show was made up of a several skits interspersed with singing and ballet and other dance sequences – sort of variety show. The ‘Brink’ referred to Independence – ‘On the Brink’ was just two to three years prior to Independence. BrinkTop was within a year of Independence; and Over the Brink was just after Independence. The first two were under the Jagan’s administration while the last one was under the Burnham’s.

    This was important because many of the skits had a political bias – Dr Jagan and his administration was a target in the first two. For example, I played the part of Dr. Jagan (wearing a signature red dotted on white bow-tie) in his dental office where he couldn’t even pull a tooth (of Bertie ? – worked at GBS/Radio Demerara), using a torchlight and pliers and with no freezing of the tooth (after rummaging through a large box to find his dentistry implements). Finally, after several tries he/I gave up and called a political opponent, Dr Richmond, also a dentist, for help. (The Audience found it hilarious Dr. Jagan’s supposed lack of dentistry skills and for the irony: he was Premier, and was calling his political opponent for assistance for a routine extraction.)

    I don’t recall much more of the other two. The writers included Frank Pilgrim (became PRO for Mr. Burnham) and Hugh Cholmondeley and likely others. Frank’s sister (forgot her name) who was Principal at BHS produced/directed most of the skits.

    Guyana Legend: I believe you wrote/produced/directed it. The performance was at the GDF auditorium, Thomas Lands. There was a lady from Trinidad who helped with the dance sequences.

    The guest of honour at the premiere show was Miriam Makeba, in company with Lady Carter, (Ambassador to Venezuela, John Carter’s wife). I remember them as I was facing them (they seemed quite pleased) as I rose up from a ‘racial’ confrontation with Keith Massiah (later a judge) with Pauline Thomas (later stage name: ‘Aunt Comsee’) intervening to defuse the situation.

    The scene with me was: I had played a drunken Indian (what’s new? I was told in the Guyana setting) father of Robert Naraine who was in love with a Black girl (I believe was Pauline Thomas’ real-life daughter). I manhandled Robert leading to Keith Massiah intervening. I grabbed a cutlass or some such weapon and threatened Keith. Pauline stepped in and calmed me down and I broke down apologizing to all. The show ends here.

    I am sure you can talk more of the show (probably still have the script as I think you helped or wholly penned) tracing the history of Guyana up to the time of Independence.

    (We were told to wait around to be presented to Ms Makeba, but I skipped out as was my habit – not caring to meet VIP’s. Next day, Matthew Allen (broadcaster) asked me where I was as ‘Miriam wanted to meet me’). I still have one her LP’s (one of 4 which I brought over from Guyana).

    If you look at the photo album with pics of Guyana Legend, you should see me there and jog your memory as you had told me at the after-party at TG showing it to me that an inordinate amount of the frames had me inside for the 10-mins or so I was in the show.

    Back to the impact of the Brink show with me playing Dr. Jagan in a negative light. When I emerged on stage dressed up as Dr Jagan, I could hear the audience gasp, as the makeup was likely very effective.

    More Feedback:
    One gentleman, who was with a family I knew in the audience was aghast that I would play the part showing Dr. Jagan as incompetent. At the time (as a starter in the theatre) I saw it more as making ‘light fun’ of him (as many of the skits were in that vien) and as worse was done in newspaper cartoons’ etc.

    Couple years later when Peter D’Aguair was Finance Minister (in coalition with Mr. Burnham), and I worked in his ministry (Treasury, Public Bldgs) I was called to the Accountant General’s (C. M, Fraser) office. I arrived to see Mr D’Aguair flanked by the hierarchy: Fraser (AG), Pat Farnum (Dep AG) and Stanley Seymour( Asst AG). Fraser (who had seen the show) introduced me to D’Aguair and they told me how pleased they were with the performance. Fraser even quipped (“if you were Dr, Jagan you would get my vote any day”). They all laughed.

    Incidentally, during the Civil Service strike I worked (went to Fraser’s office on the first day and he went up to Dr. Jagan’s office to get the keys to the Treasury Dept.) During that 80-day strike Fraser always treated me respectfully as he had a very acid tongue for everyone else, ‘except ‘the Governor General’ I would say. So, my performance slighting Dr. Jagan won him over.

    Thirty years later (1995) when I visited Guyana, at Bourda pavilion at a test match, an old Treasury friend, Norm Backer, came to me and told me the “The Master”, Stanley Seymour (later AG), heard I was there and wanted Norman to fetch me. When I arrived, ‘The Master’ recited to his company, the incident with D’Aguair, and how pleased D’Aguair was. I gathered they all regularly recalled the performance and incident with D’Aguair. No wonder it was stuck in Seymour’s mind.

    So, it goes to show the popular impact of the ‘political’ Brink shows, especially the scourging of Dr. Jagan.

    Interestingly, soon after the show, Dr.Jagan and I were walking on opposite sides in the corridor of the Public Bldgs. He crossed over and shook my hands to say ‘howdy’ but didn’t mention the show, even though I felt embarrassed.

    By all means. Ricardo, do reply if you care, even though I am extremely busy with the much delayed book.

    PS. I have met Pauline Thomas (Aunt Comsee) a few times over in Toronto. She has a fantastic, detailed memory. First time we met she recited both her and my lines in Guyana Legend. So, if you get in touch with her, you will get a ’mine’ of info.
    Also, I was told Matthew Allen and Mike Huggins passed away (RIP). Mike and Milton Bruce I believe worked with you as their boss at Guyana Graphic. Mike was good buddy of mine. He had introduced me to the GT Dramatic Club (the building behind the Chinese Sports club, Thomas Lands).

    Best Regards,
    Veda Nath Mohabir (aka “Vidnauth’)

  • Ricardo Smith  On March 24, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    It’s a joy to hear from you Vednauth, and your encyclopedic memory. I remember the riveting scene in Guyana Legend with you and Auntie Comsee, and of course, I always found you to be a really impressive actor, but also a bit of an enigma. I was never able to get close to you, neither I nor any one else seemed to be able to get close to you….

    Your evocative reminiscences of the Brink Shows brings back all kinds of memories and I will be passing them on to my young and gifted protege Keon Heywood, who is now working with me to update the GUYANA Legend. He is also working on the recreation of the Brink Shows with the Theatre Guild. He is my ears and eyes now that my eyesight is not as good as it used to be; in fact, Keon is the one typing this response, and will fill you in with what we are doing RE: GUYANA Legend, as it may have some resonance with your current endeavour.

    GUYANA Legend explores themes which are still relevant: Freedom, Political Independence and the current possibility of Economic Independence,……. the incipient ethnic and class tensions that still prevail,……..the exploitation by the empires and the elites through the ages, and the impact of those who rigidly hold on to power.
    ……….Did these forces contribute to the inertia, Cynicism and lack of power among the masses?…….. Is it this which causes them to turn on each other? Will it be exploitation as usual in the future ….Or will the young poeple who haven’t come with the baggage we have, work together and liberate themselves and Guyana………
    An epilogue will be added which sets the tone for the future. The epilogue will be done through Music, Movement and Spoken Word Poetry.

    I am devastated to hear of Mike Huggins’ passing, he was always a favourite of mine, as was Milton Bruce. I would certainly love to connect with Milton if he’s still around.

    I have a copy of a critique by Francis Quamina Farrier, and the GUYANA Legend programme,which I will post later

    Many thanks to you Cyril for making this possible.

    Fond regards

    Ricardo and Keon

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