Reader’s Letter: No Oscars to be expected on St. Eustatius soon

POSTED: 01/24/12 1:29 PM

Noel Coward wrote this wonderful song entitled “Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington.” His message was clear: Talent is what is required to make it in the world of dramatic arts. These meaningful lyrics have clearly not filtered down to Clyde van Putten whose performance at last week’s Island Council meeting on Statia has amused but not impressed the local review critics.
No Oscars or Golden Globes from these reluctant experts. They complain of too much adlib, too many cheap gags and deviation from the plot. The entire production also suffered from too many quick costume changes leaving its audience unsure as to who the real heroes and villains were. Inevitably, the latter upstaged the former.
For those unaware of the plot behind this stage production, I shall explain. The plot revolves around a motion of no confidence in the leading star (or NuStar) role played by van Putten (PLP).
Jailhouse blues
Curtains up and it all starts with the relocation of the prison from Man-a-War to Steward. Van Putten’s side-kick resigns and this ignites a government crisis. Allegations of nepotism, corruption and graft are thrown across the council floor. Despite these tribulations, our not so beloved leading actor rises like a Phoenix to deliver presumably more of the same.
In his defense, this troubled soul was accused of many things. They include promising the prison land to his brother, paying the health bill for his ex-wife’s visit to Venezuela from public coffers, political appointees and private commissions from local contractors and so the list goes on.
Attack is often the best form of defense and once the mask was ripped from this wounded thespian he responded with equally dramatic angst. He accused his accusers of many woeful acts. But then he decided to take the inappropriate higher ground.
Biblical references washed out the Legislative Hall as he transformed the event into a personal pulpit. But his characterization of Scarlet O’Hara (If God is my witness, etc) and the invocation of the blood of Jesus were far too melodramatic for my taste.
He defended the gift of land use for his brother’s cows quite well. Besides, we all know this land is covered in so much junk that it is totally unfit for grazing by four-legged critters. But the audience was still left with the correct notion that perhaps this ideal location was earmarked for grazing by political or petrochemical animals of the two-legged variety.
And then the dramatic mask slipped once again to reveal the true character behind the persona. He asserted that the prison would only be built “by white Dutchmen to lock up our black children.”
At best, this was off-the-mark and at worst, clearly discriminatory. Unlike van Putten, God loves us all.
I am not sure how his fellow troop of actors viewed the performance in its entirety. Perhaps Franklin Brown, the protagonist of the STEP party took exception to being cast as one of Cinderella’s ugly sisters. As Commissioner and owner of a cable company, there is perhaps a conflict of interest. A prison built on the new location will require kilometers of cable and actors do so adore encores.
Less entertaining was a roll-call of political roles performed by our esteemed leader through his many years of public service. His assertion that he was ready for the maker to call him once his work on planet earth was completed seemed equally distracted and distractive. After all, the debate should have been about political not divine judgment. Nevertheless, members of the Coalition of Hope if not Despair remained silent.
Already decided
Repudiation in the face of such repetition is pointless when the casting couch has already been crafted. The vote on the Jailhouse Rock had already been decided the night before.
Power broker and casting manager is Reginald Zaandam (UPC). For Reginald, the Chavez style of Van Putten was absolutely not consistent with the St Eustatius School of Acting. But staging a production with the opposition DP (while demanding to be the sole casting director) also seemed doomed to become a Broadway flop. Political power under personal stage management in the wings is more influential than the public power of politics in the floodlights. Stage make-up is less humanly painful than making up. Better to stay with the Devil you know than the Devil you know even better!
In truth, this Legislative Hall production had its high moments. Self-contained performances from Koos Steek (DP) were memorable. Accused of misusing political power for personal gain, he responded in true biblical ‘cast the first stone’ fashion.
Once the curtain fell, theatre critics were left wondering if it was a good show. Absolutely not! We expect more from our politicians than venality and self-interest. We expect them to be representative, responsive and responsible. Their dirty laundry has no place within the culture of integrity and good governance. But on Statia, this lofty principle is more honored in the breach or in breech pockets than in the observance.
The future of the prison and that of van Putten remains unresolved. Relocating the prison from an industrial to a residential area makes no economic or common sense. The Ministry of Justice was not pleased with this frivolous decision and the real motive behind the relocation still has to be revealed.
No vision
Van Putten has become a one-man act. His impromptu and autocratic performances hold no vision for a people whose future depends on long-term wisdom. DP also failed its audition. If van Putten has achieved anything for the acting profession, he has at least made the point that greed for personal gain has become a universal standard.
Moreover, it is such a pity that the public gallery in the Legislative Hall was empty for most of this comic show. Tickets were free and so were political inhibitions. We learned much about our leaders and their weaknesses.
As for Mrs. Worthington, she would be delighted with van Putten’s performance. But I can safely say without any fear of serious contradiction that Noel Coward would have found it very, very poor indeed!

James Russell

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