Sunday 26 May, 2019

Story time at The Gap Theatre

‘Mouth Open, Story Jump Out.’

This old saying alludes to the fact that it doesn’t take much to get some people talking – especially when the drinks start flowing.

Before long, people are regaling each other with a multitude of stories – stories about their families, stories from their childhood, stories about their life experiences as an adult and even stories about what happened to them just the other day…

This was the scene at the Walled Garden Theatre at the Barbados Museum, when The Gap Theatre stage ‘Mouth Open, Story Jump Out’ from March 30 – April 1.

Director and compere, Nala, welcomed the audience into his rum shop, The Mouth, and in both capacities, he served up a smooth blend as Nadia Phillips and Patrick Foster, DJ Simmons and Michelle Barrow, and Michelle Hinkson-Cox and Adrian Green, passed through the shop.

Nala told Loop News after the show, “A story-teller is somebody who excites the imagination using words and their body. It’s the original form of theatre. Long before we had the technology to build sets, people were telling stories.”

The cast did just that each night as they brought to life the characters and scenes in their varied stories. Some were philosophical and introspective as Phillips and Foster recalled their experiences ‘over in away’ on the opening night; others bringing peals of laughter as Simmons and Barrow took the audience back to their childhoods on the second night with family histories, Anansi stories and schoolyard tales. The laughter continued on the final night even as Hinkson-Cox and Green got introspective with their stories of life in Barbados in times past and present. Hinkson-Cox showcased the work of her father and author, Anthony Hinkson; while Adrian Green also added spoken word to the mix.

And, like a good shopkeeper, Nala kept both the drinks and the conversation flowing as he too shared his own stories.

The intimate venue lent to the camaraderie the story-tellers were looking for as they engaged the audience in call-and-response, incorporated their spontaneous outbursts into the story-telling and even brought some audience members onstage for some good ole Bajan ‘speechifying’. Beyond the stage, the entire venue was set up like a rum shop – with tables, chairs and bar stools where you could enjoy your drinks and cutters purchased at the bar.

David Neilands of The Gap Theatre told Loop News that the ‘Mouth Open, Story Jump Out’ aimed to celebrate the culture of story-telling which is unique to Barbados, borne out in the success of novelists and short story writers such as Austin ‘Tom’ Clarke, John Wickham, Theo Williams and Shakirah Bourne.

Emphasising the importance of keeping the art of story-telling alive, he said, “We felt that story-telling is an important medium that we’re losing all over the world and Barbadians are particularly good at story-telling… and it’s a valuable art that you don’t want to lose.”

He added, “We have so many stories to tell! Stories at court, stories at cricket, stories where people reminisce, stories at funerals, at weddings…”

Neilands envisions staging a series of story-telling nights at various community centres all around the island where members of each community could participate and share their own stories about themselves and their districts. The end result would be to expose and preserve the essence of each community.

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