The annual ‘Nothing to laugh about’ shows have taken the country by storm

Dear Editor,

Al Creighton’s poison pen, which is usually used to advance the interests of his elitist friends and viciously demolish the achievements of brilliant talent, has reached a new low in his absolutely ferocious denigration of Ron Morrison’s ‘Mori J’von Comedy Jam’ and Maria Edwards-Benschop’s  ‘Nothing to Laugh About.’

However, these two producers should feel elated by Mr Creighton’s attacks, because the more vicious he is the greater is the perceived threat to the elitist clique he represents by the talent that he seeks to suppress.

Maria produced her first episode of ‘Nothing to Laugh About’ under tremendous personal stress and with no support from anyone.  She sold out the Theatre Guild all three nights, despite suspicious incidents relating to light and sound at crucial moments.

When the audience clamoured for more, she took ‘Nothing to Laugh About 1’ to the National Culture Centre and had sold-out crowds there also, again with light and sound problems surfacing just at the juncture of punch lines. The response was the same countrywide. Since then successive annual shows have taken the country by storm.

She has persevered, show after show, despite having many setbacks through the behaviour of the management of the NCC – with her prime dates allocated to others; difficulty with obtaining dates; difficulty in obtaining her money in a timely manner after her shows, and other types of harassment.

This subtle undermining of her efforts by those who see her as a threat, and who have considerable influence with the powers-that-be, has largely been ignored by her, because her heart is very large and her spirit strong.  She refuses to respond with like action and has even helped those who wish her and her productions ill.  Her artistes and support staff are high in praise of her generosity, which is so expansive that she is easily taken advantage of; yet she bears no-one any grudges – not even Mr Creighton and his ilk.  When I indicated that I would respond to Creighton’s overt nastiness she forbade me to do so; but she is a Capricornian and I am a Taurean.  We have always locked horns and neither of us gives quarter when we feel that we are right.

Mr Creighton indicated that ‘Nothing to Laugh About’ is so popular because of advertising hype and because its acts are based on cross-dressing, with no substantial material and with no clever or witty script.  He wrote that ‘Nothing To Laugh About 4’ is a minor improvement on the three previous productions, but concluded that was not hard to achieve because the previous productions of ‘Nothing to Laugh About’ (1, 2, 3) were “abso-lute disasters.”

This alone destroys whatever credibility Mr Creighton may have retained with his elitist buddies (the general public ignores him).  Give Guyanese audiences some credit.  For years Maria Edwards-Benschop’s theatrical productions have been sold out countrywide.  Is he saying this is a fluke?  I agree with him that some skits by new writers need re-working, but she is attempting to use her productions as a platform for some persons to showcase their writing talent, which the Ministry of Culture does not do; at least not effectively – not with him and his clique in perennial control of the theatrical, artistic and literary dynamics of this country, which he has been for decades, with the result of a loss of great talent in this country.

Chauramanie Bissoondyal is a case in point.  After being sidelined by the past administration for decades, many talented persons thought that the new administration would open windows of opportunity for them; but lo and behold, many years after they took office the same elitist clique still rules the roost in this country, and they use their considerable influence to destroy any threat to their control and monopoly of the formal creative world in Guyana.  The Guyana Prize for Literature is such an incestuous affair that its integrity has long been destroyed.  Carifesta has been a disaster because of the actions of the people who had been put in charge and the shockwaves are still being felt.

Maria Edwards-Benschop’s productions are created to provide light relief to Guyanese by making them laugh.  The world is very grim.  The productions take real-life situations that are “nothing to laugh about” and stage them in such a format that makes them laughable.  Her creations are not vindictive fare spewed on people and institutions under the guise of satire, but comedic situations staged merely to make people laugh.  And she has achieved phenomenal success, because the audience keeps returning and clamouring, for more.  This takes real talent, so those who would like to see her fail can digest their sour grapes instead of attempting to sabotage systems and discourage sponsors with various subterfuges every time a Maria Edwards-Benschop production is staged.  These strategies have not succeeded up until now, nor will they ever succed.

Mr Creighton concludes his tirade: “Maria Benschop’s Nothing to Laugh About, however, still leaves a great deal of room for upliftment (he should be careful with the usage of that word, because he seems to need a great deal of that where it will most benefit him), and despite being better than the failure (sic!) with which it began its life on stage, it is still not good quality.”

The fact that Mr Creighton’s buddies, through his pen, have advanced from sniping at Maria’s productions to a full-out, miasmic attack denotes the phenomenal success that she has achieved in the theatrical world.  Her faithful audiences countrywide endorse this every time with their phenomenal support by flocking to see her productions again, and again, and again.

When the powers-that-be closed every door against her and tried to make her into a non-person with no rights in this country, Maria created her own windows of opportunity and the public welcomed her with open arms because she provided them with highly entertaining fare – a product of her brilliant talent, which is an unpalatable truth for Mr Creighton and his friends to digest.

I will not be engaging in any discourse on this issue, because Mr Creighton’s contentions are so palpably false they are a non-issue but, having been a victim for years of this clique, I refuse to allow them to continue their ways unchallenged – certainly not with this new victim they have chosen. She will not walk quietly off into the sunset like I and so many others have done, because of the bigotry of the powerbrokers and the envy of a horrid grouping.

Yours faithfully,
Parvati Persaud-Edwards

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