I Remember When, Riverfront, Newport

November 2, 2015 by

I Remember When was a local play that brought together local people, organisations and projects to help the people of Newport understand more about the Jamaican culture, and the history of how Jamaica became a part of Newport many years ago, as well as how the community is still strong today, all in the form of a comedic play.

Hundreds of people gathered at The Riverfront to enjoy the months of planning it took to create the play, as well as listen to the choirs that sang for the audience before the performance.

Fortunately, I got the chance to go and photograph the play during rehearsals, as well as enjoy a front seat to watch the whole event!

In a nut shell, the play was about an old lady, telling the story of her younger days in Jamaica, where she falls in love with a handsome man, but the man leaves to work abroad. Even though he promises to send letters and marry her when he returns, he fails to contact her ever again. The story is about how she copes without him, with the confusion of why her first love stopped contacted her.

After speaking to one of the play writers, Roy Grant, I was surprised to learn that the play was actually based on real stories that were collected as part of a current Back-A-Yard project. This made the play more emotionally connected with its audience and actors, I feel.

He also said that the aim of the play was to use the stories that were collected by the team of Back-A-Yard to help young people understand what it was like to live in Jamaica, as well as understand how hard it was for their parents and grandparents to leave.

Though the storyline seems sad, I can assure you there’s a happy ending. And there are many happy moments throughout. The play is actually categorised as a comedy, and it certainly had much of a humorous element to it.

The characters were also very bubbly and positive, which accurately represents the personality and culture of the Jamaican community in Newport. What also related to the real characteristic of the Jamaican culture was the strong opinion and attitude the characters had, concerning society.

I would sum up this play as a Jamaica-meets-Newport rom-com.

Much like the older generation in British people, the older characters (who narrated the story) gave a lot of opinions of the rebellious young people of today, as well as when they too were young. To take away from the seriousness of their opinions, though, was constant humour within each character as they talked, and engaged with the audience, throughout the play.

I got the chance to interview one of Newport City Radio’s editors, Daniel Murray, who played Uncle George in last night’s play. Being quite well-spoken, Daniel told me that he found it a challenge to learn and practice a strong Jamaican accent. Though, he certainly pulled it off on the night.

Considering the event’s budget, South East Wales Regional Equality Council and collaborators made the theatre their own, for the short time they owned it. One of the obvious ways they did this was by using all the space that the stage provided. There were times when they had up to three scenes set up, so that they could quickly shift from one scene to the next.

If I had to give constructive criticism, I would say that the play was too quiet; sometimes so quiet that I couldn’t hear what the actors were saying, even though I was sat at the front. I feel that the audience may have missed some funny and important parts of the play because of its low volume.

Overall, the play was funny, emotional and cleverly executed. I hope they decide to perform the show again soon, or even create another story for a new play next year. I’d highly recommend it for a good night out and some good old family entertainment.



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