‘God of Carnage’ – Brian Heap marks forty years in Jamaican theatre

Dr Brian Heap, Senior Lecturer and Head of the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts this year celebrates his fortieth year in Jamaican theatre. He will be marking the milestone by directing the University Players in a new production of Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award-winning play, ‘God of Carnage.’ The production, which opens at the Philip Sherlock Centre on Saturday May 9th, features a formidable ensemble of actors, namely, Alwyn Scott, Deanne Allgrove, Jean-Paul Menou and Julene Robinson.

Says Heap, “The University Players had great success with ‘ART’ a few years ago, which was another play by Yasmina Reza, and I’m sure audiences will be just as shocked and delighted by ‘God of Carnage’. The University Players has developed a reputation for staging a very broad repertoire, so audiences never know what to expect next.”

Heap began his theatre career in Jamaica forty years ago when he replaced actor Bobb Kerr in the first production of Trevor Rhone’s play ‘School’s Out’ at the Barn Theatre. “On the first night I dried – that is I forgot my lines at one point – which was such a horrible feeling, I made sure it never happened again,” Heap recalls.

After such an inauspicious start to his career, Heap has gone on to appear in dozens of local stage productions, and to direct well over a hundred others. “I think I passed the century mark as a director quite some time ago,” he says. With fifteen LTM pantomimes to his directing credit, and a similar number of major productions for the University Dramatic Arts Society, ‘God of Carnage’ will be his seventeenth directing assignment for the University Players which he revived in 2003.

Despite his prolific theatre output, Brian Heap has spent most of his career in teaching drama at all levels of the education system in Jamaica, and will officially retire from his current post at the Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI in August. He is widely published and was recently featured as a writer on Aesthetics in one of the volumes in a new series of books on Applied Theatre. Later this year his writing will also appear in a volume entitled ‘The Reflective Practitioner’s Guide to (mis)Adventures in Drama Education: or What was I Thinking?’ “Eminent drama educators from all over the world were asked to write about the worst drama lesson they ever taught, and to say what they learned from it,” Heap chuckles. “I think it’s a wonderful idea, because it’s so helpful for young teachers to read about their mentors in the discipline struggling to perfect their skills. We can all learn a lot from our failures, and turn them to our advantage.”

Heap’s new play for the University Players, ‘God of Carnage’ also looks at the consequences of failure to some extent, although from a different perspective. In this challenging production, a playground altercation between eleven year-old boys brings together two sets of middle class parents for a meeting to resolve the matter. At first, diplomatic niceties are observed, but as the meeting progresses, and the rum flows, tensions emerge and the gloves come off, leaving the couples with more than just their liberal principles in tatters.

‘God of Carnage’ is essentially an ensemble piece since all four characters are onstage together for most of the play. It is also a piece which makes great physical and emotional demands on the actors, although the cast members in this case are well up to the challenge.

‘God of Carnage’ plays for just eight performances at the Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI where it opens onSaturday May 9 at 8pm. Thereafter it plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 6pm. Bookings can be made by calling 977-9770.