Features

Play Review: Time for ‘Serious Business’ in Jamaica

Written by Anthea McGibbon

It doesn’t matter how often you watch the play “Serious Business,” which is now out on DVD. “Di one Shebada” is one Jamaican phrase you are most likely to find yourself saying without your control, when you get down to “Serious Business” which opened at the Green Gables Theatre, each time it comes around. All throughout the play from start to finish Keith “Shebada Ramsay holds the audience on and off stage with vulgar, but witty lines and his colourful character. Imagine the Shebada you know as a minister, slight New York accent if you will that comes and goes on occasion as his raunchy side as a Jamaican comes out. His eyes popping for impact, but ooh that lisp which gives way to the wind putting some of his diction to flight.

The setting and characters were still enhanced by the religious imagery, and tone created by his lead however. Yet Paul O Beale along with Michael Nicholson does a good job in using Shebada as the main tool in reeling in not only the young fold, but also those who dare to enter the dark theatre to watch the down-to-earth play. A star in his own rank and rating, he enters and ‘performs’ the ministerial role well enough, but his main role transforms to that of playing devil’s advocate as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Shebada’s first order of business is in revealing the pastor for who he is, and this rips open the door of the closet of both pastor Bruce (Maxwell Grant ) and wife, Sister Sonia (Deon Silvera), where horrifying secrets are stored.

The gasps of breath, previously being sucked in, escaped from members of the audience, who at other times were grappling with issues through bouts of raucus laughter. What’s more the young pastor bold to many lions, is subdued by a puny area don, Finger (Junior Williams).

In an uncanny way the play reflects aspects of “church society” and glares in the face of those scornful of Shebada and his character, not to mention his known tactics on stage, as much it brings together sombre and humour through comedy. Shebada does not give a hoot however, and does a great job entertaining his audience on and off stage, as well as he mirrors what happens in a few ‘saintly’ environments. It is interesting that this version of pastoral leadership is most effective, as is the reality in church cases like these, where there is a lacking of spiritual depth.

The entire play is a full production of wits, wits about Jamaicans, wits by Jamaicans exploring psychology, sociology and philosophy. This is of course is illustrated in every aspect from the name of the church Deep Valley Revival to the closing scene and props – all strategic. On the wall, there are proverbs from the Books of Entertainers and Government, and the Chapters are for example “Mavado” and “Bob Marley,” and “Prime Minister Bruce Golding.” Quoted messages are about love, money, unity, and sex placed on the wall as posters complimenting the dying Christ with the outstretched arms – well done.

There are just over 10 scenes, some more impacting than some, and better thought out. Yet the directorship of Michael Nicholson reflected throughout is superb, as you cannot easily notice the flaws, unless you are being ever watchful. Beyond directorship he inspires the knack of improvising that was well needed in a few pockets of the night.

All persons behind the play obviously love the ideal church, and want to experience more, as much as they love the theatre – and so they get down to the “Serious Business” of presenting challenge to those involved in “churchianity.”

The actors work together in bringing out points that need to come out about some churchians in the Jamaican society. The use of modern technology, and reiteration of the need to network for the betterment of any thing including church is brought out in the revelation that Brother Shebby was sourced through MySpace with references on Facebook, and Twitter. It is the church’s owner Elder (Volier Johnson) who hires Brother Shebby and another reason is to earn money in the “Serious Business” of church. The selection of songs could be better, but no strength was lost.

A deportee-turned don, Finger (Junior Williams) lures the young Hot Pepper (Abigail Grant) to fornicate right under the ever watchful eye of her uncle Papa Glory (Wayne Newby), who faints when it all comes out towards the end of the play in perhaps the best or second best scene yet. In the same, but extended scene, aided by Brother Shebby, Sister Sonia, wife of former pastor Bruce (Shepherd) is set free form the iniquities of her husband, yet free to indulge in a few of her own— a new affair. It also is noticeable that the ever committed Father Glory is always lusting for the young retarded Creamy (Pinciana Ennis), hence his shock to learn she is pregnant for the don, which might be the reason for his answering the call for membership.

The visuals stretch the imaginations of the audience. The costumes were tastefully colourful with Brother Bruce Shepherd looking like a joker on the wild card of the pack. The invisible wall between the office and church hall might have been distracting, but the actors did well in directing the eyes as the entered and left and re-entered the doors however from one room to the next.

Hiccups were very few and were only noticeable when Elder (Volier Johnson) seemed to have forgotten either his lines or where exactly he was best fitted in the closing scenes. Especially during the concert scene, which didn’t seem properly thought out. Brother Shebby work better in vocalising what you preach, constantly. Brother Shebby this time although finding a few lost souls lost a few words to the wind. The play is a brilliant display of the creative intellect Jamaicans possess when they get down to “Serious Business.”

Other members of the production team pulling off the gospel comedy are: Set design and costume: Audley Fearon and Quindell Ferguson SPECIAL NEWS: Don’t miss!!

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About the Author:
Over 13 years as a journalist, Anthea  is a trained paralegal, and artist. She combines her skills including teaching, spanish, photography, editing, and experiences to feature arts, creativity to offer consultations, and other services. She owns antheamcgibbon.com, media website on arts, creativity, culture, and her paintings are available online and at Gallart.com. Contact her at 876-530-5744 or 305-648-6963 or [email protected], [email protected].

About the author

Anthea McGibbon

Anthea McGibbon, Editor and senior journalist, features arts, culture and people of Jamaica. Contact her at [email protected] or [email protected]