Twilight Café Brings Home Drama

22 May 2007

Sarah and Stanley have two kids, two lives and an explosive history that comes between them at every turn, forcing out the present.  From the moment Sarah steps into Stanley’s Twilight Café, visiting Trinidad from her new home in New York, the first domino is felled which sets off a chain reaction of reliving and revisiting.  The visit evokes poltergeists of the past to possess the two participants with old questions and powerful cultural dynamics.

In Twilight Café, Tony Hall’s writing is at once conversational and poetic, exposing the internal passion of personal history along with the external weight of all their baggage – all of our baggage, because the conflicts are all too familiar.  The playwright recognizes the destructive potential in ‘playing along’ without resolving deep seated issues whether in politics or personal life.  Perhaps the relevance of the experience he depicts explains Hall’s ability to engage audiences on the street, the stage, the radio and in lecture halls.

The Jouvay Popular Theatre Process, developed by Tony Hall through his work at the Lord Street Theatre in Trinidad, uses the ritual and imagery of carnival, and invests it with the gravity of the artform’s political, spiritual and cultural roots, quite aside from its perceived function as a celebratory rite.  The carnival tradition is connected with archetypes in folklore, with resistance and with the history of calypso music itself, as deftly explored in Jean and Dinah... Who Have Been Locked Away in a World Famous Calypso Since 1956 Speak Their Minds Publicly, which Hall co-wrote with Rhoma Spencer and Susan Sandiford. The JPTP method incorporates some of carnival’s recognizable elements into the process of creation and production, including masquerade, improvisation and rhythm.  But he also goes deeper to invoke “ the secret, subterranean, survival strategies of the emancipation traditions.”

The story in Twilight Café is cyclical, exemplary of the repetitive pattern of human interactions it is illustrating.  From the premise of a nuclear family with conventional breadwinner/housekeeper roles, the stability of that household balance is threatened and what follows is a deconstruction of the parts that make up this whole.  The breadwinner/housekeeper are and have been husband/wife-father/mother-son/daughter, the impact of each experience echoing through the next.  Each of the performers takes on the challenge of traversing shifting sands, as the story trips across various masculine and feminine social prototypes and their attendant inconsistencies.

The cast of this production are well equipped to manage the range required by their various roles. David Collins (The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, The Sheep and The Whale) and Raven Dauda (Da Kink in My Hair, She Never Bought Me an Easy Bake Oven) play characters walking a tightrope between vulnerability and volatility which makes for a taut atmosphere.

Twilight Café won five Cacique awards for theatre in Trinidad and Tobago, (outstanding actress, set design, lighting design, sound design and original script).

Donna-Michelle St. Bernard is a Freelance Contributor for AfroToronto.com. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

TWILIGHT CAFÉ [The Last Breakfast]

by Tony Hall
Directed by Rhoma Spencer
Featuring: David Collins &Raven Dauda
Set, Costumes and Props: Julia Tribe
Sound Design: Nicholas Murray
Lighting Design: Michelle Ramsay

The Great Hall Downstairs (formerlyThe Theatre Centre)
1087 Queen Street West (At Dovercourt)

Time: Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00pm Sundays @ 2:00pm

Tickets will be available at T.O. Tix on the web www.totix.ca, by phone at 1-888-222-6608, in person at the T.O. Tix booth at Yonge and Dundas Square or 1 hour before showtime at the door.

With Twilight Café, Theatre Archipelago builds on three years of creating theatre from the Caribbean Diaspora.  Artistic Director Rhoma Spencer has brought stories from the islands to North American stages as a playwright, director, actor and stand-up comic, always from the company’s “no boundaries” stance.

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