The closing ceremony of the fourth National Drama Festival was truly “The Night of Stars” as it was dubbed and shining brightest of them all for her successful direction of the festival and choreography of the closing ceremony was Colette Jones-Chin.

The Award Ceremony was artistically, near impeccable and brilliant on the eyes and the efficiency of time – starting not too late and flowing – overall magnificently executed; the little black jottings on the otherwise white canvas were so minute they should not even be mentioned.

20140201box09The speeches were too long and that of Minister of Culture Dr Frank Anthony became political. The director’s was understandably emotional and Chief Judge Al Creighton compared this year’s festival with last year’s.

The speeches gave a background on theatre and gave context to the concluding festival but what the audience, dramatists and theatrical investors were anxious to hear is an insight as to where theatre is going and whether the drama festival would pursue its purpose of inviting new talent, broadcasting the arts nationally and giving artists a wider stage and opportunity to shine.

Collette and the minister both spoke along these lines. Creighton spoke about cultural realism being the most dominant form of stage play in Guyana, the amount of works produced this year on what impacts us as a community and the most prevalent socio-political issues taking the stage.

Anthony earned hearty applause when he said that the National Cultural Centre was built for theatre purposes, and though it serves as a conference centre and host for many shows, it will always remain a theatre for the dramatic arts and so it should be brought back to its original purpose.

Collette talked about societal changes when it comes to theatre. Drama does influence the people and tickle their minds but Guyana somehow seems to be marketing comedy and ignoring the other forms. Although all plays and functions under the festival were free, the turnout was poor.

Last week I wrote that despite the brilliant theatre and wonderful staging of Hamlet by the Shakespeare’s Globe travelling theatre the Guyanese audience slept, walked out, misunderstood and were bored.

Collette pleaded for support for the festival, noting that seeing the empty yellow chairs in the theatre discourages artists. She spoke about the future and how the festivals portrayed hope to artists.

Twenty-seven plays were staged this year in a matter of two weeks, compared to last year with dozens more. Some artists boycotted this year owing to non-payment and lack of prize-money awarded by the ministry. This was rectified this year as winners were paid by cheque right after the ceremony and these were successful cashed the next day by most, if not all.

Throughout, the plays were started on time, most of the time and the theatre was comfortable as the air conditioner is functioning. Lights and sound were not perfect in all plays, but this was due to inexperienced independent technicians and not the Cultural Centre’s technical teams.

The festival had a mentorship programme throughout that taught inexperienced artists the ropes; light and sound should be part of that programme in the future.

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