Meetings by Mustapha Matura – review

“All three actors were exceptional”
Orange Tree Theatre
Review by: Christina Nicole
afridiziak ratings
Published: Friday 03 November 2023, 6pm

Meetings (c) Marc Brenner
Meetings (c) Marc Brenner

One thing I love about theatre is its ability to transport you to different worlds. Whether it’s to the Caribbean or the intimate setting of someone’s home, it’s always an adventure once you take your seat in the auditorium. Meetings achieves this wonderfully as it whisks you away to a married middle-class home in 1980s Trinidad.

In the round, the play is set in a kitchen/dining room, where a married couple, Hugh (Kevin N. Golding) and Jean (Martina Laird), are gearing up for a demanding day filled with numerous work meetings. Both highly accomplished in their respective careers, they take pride in their busy schedules and their involvement in important work meetings. Jean, engrossed in her latest project of marketing and selling a new type of cigarette in Trinidad, finds very little time for anything else besides her job.

Her heart is set on the finer things in life, and she shies away from anything that doesn’t showcase her progress. Whether it’s turning down a visit to a local beach in favour of a trip to Miami or opting for chicken and chips or Italian and French cuisine at pristine restaurants over traditional Trinidadian food, she clearly leans towards a certain lifestyle.

Her husband, Hugh, couldn’t be more different. He runs his own business selling water pipes but yearns to reconnect with his childhood traditions. He longs for simple pleasures like flying kites and relishing traditional Trinidadian dishes, like souse. Hugh has grown tired of the fancy “European” cuisine and craves the comfort of home-cooked Trinidadian meals instead.

On his journey of reconnecting with his humble roots, he befriends an older lady who sells fresh mangoes near his workplace. He quickly becomes her best customer, and in a heart-warming exchange, she becomes his life coach. Her wisdom helps him gain a deeper understanding of the different ways people live on the island, especially in rural villages. This elder woman even recommends her granddaughter, Elsa (Bethan Mary-James), to work as a live-in cook for Hugh. This decision has a huge impact on his life, transforming it forever.

While Meetings contains moments of humour, it also delves into darker themes. It sheds light on the harmful consequences of cigarettes on local communities, highlighting the destructive forces of greed, corruption, and ignorance. The play serves as a reminder of how the influence of the West can be like a deadly cancer, capable of wreaking havoc when not treated properly.

Meetings (c) Marc Brenner
Meetings (c) Marc Brenner

I really enjoyed Meetings. The set, designed by Olivia Jamieson, was a perfect match for the play. It had a fully functional kitchen that allowed us to enjoy the delightful aromas of Caribbean cuisine being prepared on the stove. I also loved the movement direction by Diane Alison-Mitchell, especially during the scene where Hugh and Elsa danced around the kitchen, invoking spiritual elements.

Director Kalungi Ssebandeke did an outstanding job of bringing the story to life. I particularly appreciated Kalungi’s directorial choices, such as having moments where the actors moved in slow motion to emphasize their emotions in those instances.

What I really liked about the play was its script by the late Mustapha Matura. It felt unique and refreshing, unlike anything I’ve seen before. It centred on a middle-class Caribbean couple engaging in everyday activities and facing everyday issues that people from various ethnicities and cultures can easily relate to. This was a breath of fresh air to see, and I hope to witness more plays like it in the future. It goes to show that black stories don’t always have to revolve around struggle; they can also focus on themes like community, careers, and relationships.

The play leaves you in deep contemplation about the West and its detrimental effects on other countries. I don’t know if you have noticed, but the Caribbean has become inundated with fast-food shops, supermarkets brimming with unhealthy options, and American advertisements promoting all sorts of toxic medications.

Meetings reminds us that we don’t need those things, home cooked foods will give you all the nutrients you need, whilst plants make great natural medicines.

The acting in the play was another highlight for me. It felt authentic and realistic. I was completely engrossed in every word spoken by the actors, and their performances made me believe I was witnessing genuine people navigating their daily lives, rather than watching actors on stage. The interaction between all three actors was fantastic. Their vulnerability, desires, and fears were so vividly portrayed that I became fully immersed in their every word and action. All three actors were exceptional and their performances breathed life into the play.

Overall, I really enjoyed the play, though a slightly shorter ending would enhance it. It was a so nice to watch a play that represented Caribbean culture. The play managed to make me laugh, gasp, and feel a sense of sadness. It accomplished everything I would expect from a play: it kept me entertained and left me in contemplative reflection.

This is a play worth watching! I would recommend it to everyone.

NEED TO KNOW: Meetings plays at the Orange Tree Theatre until 11 November 2023