Paul Keens-Douglas in Concert with Dance Caribe Performing Company
Review by Meegan Scott
Celebration, entertainment, therapy, recall and homage in true Caribbean style. An apt description for the concert which brought the Caribbean, its culture and popular artistic performances to Riverdale Collegiate Institute in Toronto with grandeur and flair two Saturdays ago.
I had the pleasure of attending the second show and was thoroughly entertained and delighted by the performance. It was the inaugural presentation by The Talk, Theatre, Comedy and Dance (TTCODA) Production – a celebration of the 75th birthday of Trinidad’s Paul Keens-Douglas as well as his 40-year story-telling career. In addition, the event marked the 28th anniversary of the Dance Caribe Performing Company.
Tissue can’t handle the job of dabbing your eyes at a Paul Keens-Douglas concert. You’ll need your good ole handkerchief and nothing less. That same Paul Keens-Douglas “look like him can’t mash ants” but as Miss Lou would say, him “really jokify” bad—a true master of his craft as well as Caribbean oral traditions and folklore.
Paul Keens-Douglas, popularly known as Mr. Tim Tim, opened Act 2 with phatic communion that reminded the audience that we were one Caribbean family and one family as an audience. Paul juggled the hats of the social worker, historian, educator, poet and entertainer with his dramatic monologues and even his singing. Each piece was tempered with just the amount of exaggeration to unplug uncontrolled laughter in a humorous and distinctly Caribbean way.
Whether he was teaching the history of steelpan in “Sugar George”; sharing the frustrations of dealing with an embarrassingly strong-headed and outspoken matriarch such as “Tanti at the Oval” or Tanti in “Tanti Merle Drapes”, his language, pitch, rhythm and rich imagery had the audience enthralled and at home.
I admire his ability to translate and share the commonality in language and folklore of the different islands in a manner that explains yet erases the differences to reveal the oneness of the people of the Caribbean. “De Christening”, “Carnival is Marse”, “My Daddy is de Best Daddy” and the story of the Coffin in the Truck are packed with characters that are known to the people of each Caribbean island.
Keens-Douglas’ social commentary supports his commitment to help us “keep on keeping our own visions”—in other words. he is passionate about providing a steady diet that fosters respect for Caribbean values, traditions, and culture for ensuring that we remain grounded and confident in reaching for our shared and individual visions. By sharing his professional journey as a tribute to Miss Lou, he sets an example for us to be thankful and to acknowledge our elders. I laud him for his determination to preserve traditional characters and stories, however, I would be delighted to see him add some of the traditional treatment to one or two of our modern Caribbean characters.
“Ah Taste of We Mas” — Act 1, Suite 3, ‘Mas’ indeed! With Macomere Fifi, Canada’s Calypso Queen added to the same concert , you will need a yard of handkerchief for dabbing those eyes plus serious restraint to stay in your seat. After all, who listens to calypso at its best without ranting, raving and misbehaving?
When “Macomere Fifi” belts out serious yet provocative lyrics topped off with her teasing gyration, she bewitches the audience with serious thought and evokes uproarious laughter to serious issues. Perhaps we are surprised by her prowess at bewitching because the tools she uses are dissimilar to those used by the soucouyant, ole-higue or obeah woman.
The Dance Caribe Performing Company delighted the audience with a collection of Mixed African & Afro-Caribbean Dances. Call of the Dance Spirits, and Rejoice in Glory were all well received.
The costumes were magnificent, the pieces well selected the performers enthusiastic. However, the facial expressions fought to break out of the fourth wall. As a result the full body engagement characteristic of the Caribbean and African dances fell short on attitude, waist and hip movement which also impacted pacing and rhythm.
Henry “King Cosmo” Gomez guided the evening’s program with virtuosity.
All told, the performers delighted the audience to a wildly entertaining evening of stories, poetry and performances in true Caribbean Style.