The first scene of Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place opens with Trick Me by Kelis – providing an early indication of the play’s ‘no holds barred’, tone.
A Small Place receives its page to stage revival 30 years after it was first penned by the American-Antiguan novelist, born Elaine Potter Richardson.
A relevant and fascinating production.
Set amidst the Gate Theatre’s intimate production space, Jamaica Kincaid‘s two-hander is presented as an immersive and interactive theatre experience with Cherrelle Skeete and Nicola Alexis.
West Indians will be familiar with the backdrop of returning home – heavily laden with foreign fare for their loved ones. They narrate from the text whilst weaving in and out of the audience from the perspective of an Antiguan – one slightly more brash than the other. Out of the blue, the second narrator is introduced via the library. Throughout the play, minimal lighting is used to illuminate the narrator’s face or a simple, dimly lit table lamp in the corner or a globe, lit with subtlety – an atmospheric choice by lighting designer Johanne Jensen.
From the onset, it’s clear that Kincaid needs to get things off her chest and rip to shreds any tourist notions you might have about Antigua. For starters, the sewage system is inadequate, but that’s fine because, well, we have the bright sun. As Antigua’s inadequacies are dissected, the narrators look you straight in the eye, daring you to look away from the intensity of their uncomfortable observations and revelations: “The English don’t know what to do with themselves now they no longer have a quarter of the world bowing down to them” or “everywhere they went, they turned English or into England”. She has a point.
Actually, Kincaid has several points about colonialism’s monopoly over banking, legal and language systems. Just a small point about the origins of Barclays Bank which was founded by slave traders, the Barclays Brothers.
This is an historical, educational lament on the lasting legacy of slavery and colonialism
Kincaid is particularly disgusted by the rude, ill-mannered, small-minded, animal like people from Europe who were far removed from the Queen’s England they had heard so much about. The same colonists who came, took things that were not there’s, without asking; and murdered and; robbed people.
Books are symbolic as the play unfolds, whether they are carried on the actors’ heads or thrown in rage to the floor reinforcing the anger against the ‘bad minded’ English.
Red yawn zigzags through the audience used as props dutifully held in the clutches of their palms as we get to know this ‘small place’ a small island discovered by Christopher Columbus, and through Kincaid’s essay, Antigua is firmly placed in our minds via this historical, educational lament on the lasting legacy of slavery and colonialism – this is a relevant and fascinating production.