Winston shines in River Niger

POSTED: 11/28/11 8:43 AM

St. Maarten / By Donellis Browne – Lead Actress Sharlyn Winston absolutely shined and delivered a riveting performance in this past weekend’s performances of the River Niger. The play was staged for three nights at the Philipsburg Community and Cultural Center and brought together a cast of newbies and seasoned actors. The cast will be staging the play in Anguilla on December 2 and December 3.

The Philipsburg Community and Cultural Center was just about half filled for Saturday night’s performance, but the cast delivered mostly on par performances. The show was a bit marred by lengthy scene transitions and an overly loud linesman.

The play, originally written by Joseph Walker, was directed by Felix Fleming who played the lead male – Johnny Williams. His natural ability to fill a role shined in this production as he was convincingly drunk if need be, emoted perfectly in the scenes required and delivered both monologues and dialogs with ease.

Winston, who co-directed the production and played the role of Mattie Williams, was just that more riveting though, drawing the audience into the play as she connected the right facial expressions and tone of voice with the correct lines. The right emotions were present even when she wasn’t speaking. Her tears were believable and one could sense that at times she was struggling to reign in her emotions and deliver her lines in a clear voice. This struck the right notes and enhanced the level of drama being portrayed.

Rene Violenus, a seasoned acting, was also convincing as Doctor Dudley Staunton. His swaying drunkenness somehow fit and both he and Fleming really did seem to connect as friends, almost like brothers. Kenneth Serrant, the understudy in the role of Jeff Williams, turned nerves and a bit of frustration as he reached for lines into the right emotions. In summary he landed on his feet and could have done without the, at times overly loud, line’s man.

Marco Wattley seemed almost type cast as the revolutionary leader as he seamlessly connected with his role. Short he may be, but his big voice carried through the theater and he really seemed to lead the cast of characters that came with him. He and Serrant worked well together and found the right chemistry to show what happens between young men who must assert themselves as dominant on one hand, but also show they care at another.

Samantha Cate was quite convincing in the role of “Mama”. She brought a spice to the production that brought the grandmother many southern and Caribbean people remember or have – equal parts sweet and funny and strong and disciplined at the same time. One could not help but laugh at some of movements. Stacey Roberts also fit in well, but needed just that bit more volume. The emotion was right, but the sound of her voice needed to carry just a bit more.

Calla Gumbs did her best in her role, but failed to deliver a proper accent in her role, sounding neither South African nor Canadian, Violenus, whose character is originally from Caribbean, also did not quite make the mark in mixing backgrounds.

While Gumbs was also able to emote well, the chemistry between her and Serrant seemed a bit lukewarm. That could be put down to the fact that he’s the understudy and was admittedly a bit nervous. She did play her role of temptress well at a certain point though and Serrant convincingly “defended his woman” at the right moment.

Jesus Richardson and Akeem Adams were convincing in their roles. The one critique being that both seemed to be over-expressing themselves at certain moments. This critique is more about Richardson than Adams. Richardson also needs to work on being dead as one can still see him breathing as he lay face down.

Overall the cast did the work credit and delivered a show that was strong, moving and memorable.

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