“PEPPER IN DEY SOUP” FLEMING’S MOST CHALLENGING PLAY

anguillian
By anguillian May 22, 2017 10:12

 

 

 

 

An interesting activity commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Anguilla Revolution is expected to be the play Pepper in dey Soup beginning this weekend. It recalls an alleged threat by the late Premier Robert Bradshaw of St. Kitts against the people of Anguilla for not voting for his Labour Party Government. It is a threat which the Anguillians dreaded and was one of their reasons for their 1967 Revolution against internal rule by his administration.
Anguilla’s acclaimed playwright, Felix Fleming, is the researcher, author and producer of the play with a sizeable group of performers. He indicates that it is one of his most challenging plays given the many versions of the Anguilla Revolution and those who were involved. Additionally, with the complexity of its many twists and turns, Fleming thinks the story of the Revolution cannot be told in a single play but in up to three or four productions, therefore requiring a longer period of research and writing.

His play begins with the disruption of the St. Kitts-organised Statehood Queen Show at The Valley Secondary School in Anguilla on February 4, 1967 and climaxes with the expulsion of the St. Kitts Police on May 30 and the taking over of their own affairs by the Anguillians.

“I put that into the play for about two hours and ten minutes,” Mr. Fleming told The Anguillian. “I don’t know whether people expect that you can put a whole revolution and have everybody in such a play of that length. You really cannot do it. Knowing our people, everybody would like to be in it. There may be up to ten different versions, and after you see this play you will agree that there will be a need for more parts. I see the revolution in two parts. The first part is up to the time when the St. Kitts Police were kicked out of the island. Another part has to be written about what took place after that. You can write a continuation of three or four plays so I expect that in time to come somebody will be asked to write the rest of the story.”

The play was commissioned by the Anguilla Tourist Board as an integral activity of the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Anguilla Revolution. Mr. Fleming, who returned to Anguilla the day after the British invasion of Anguilla in March 1969, acknowledged that it was not an easy task to put the play together and to have as many characters as required.

He went on with his characteristic laugh: “I was under pressure to write the play because I would have liked to have two years to do it. I needed to put it down; take it up and write a little bit more and then think about it again. But I wrote that play and it was out in the hands of the actors in three months. That’s not good because I am not satisfied with it up to now. As I didn’t have time to re-write it or re-read it, we have been making corrections as we do the rehearsals. I never wrote anything on the Revolution but I always wanted to do so and have been gathering information about it but then I was stymied by all the different versions.

“In writing the play, the most difficult part for me was when I realise how difficult it was to get Anguillian men involved in these matters. They will talk and talk but nobody will come and take a part. Imagine there are only two people from Island Harbour in the play – and that is not because we didn’t ask and look. Those two persons, who are women, are Mona Fleming and Sonia Richardson. We have some women who are playing four parts to get my story told. It was really very difficult to write the play and keep it concise. Even if I would be given the job to do part two, I think I would like to have some guarantee of getting the men involved to really tell the story as I would wish to tell it.”

Asked about the title of the play, Pepper in dey soup, Fleming replied: “I thought that title would send a message to the people about what the play entails. You must have heard that saying somewhere if you were not born when the Revolution took place. You must have heard that Bradshaw said he going to ‘put bones in our rice and pepper in our soup’. He said it in Nevis, according my investigation, and I just thought the title of the play was something to help advertise it as well.”

The play will be staged for the first time at Lone Star, once a popular and expanded family residence at Sandy Hill. The downstairs of the newer adjoining section is now to be the permanent home for Felix’s and Mona’s Sunshine Theatre Company and its live plays.

“The location has nothing to do with the Revolution but, as it turned out, Lone Star was where the idea of breaking away from St. Kitts was discussion among Atlin Harrigan, Ronald Webster and others,” Fleming stated. “It will seat about 120 people and you don’t want any more than that when doing live theatre so that the audience can see the expressions of the actors. The caste will be about 25 people performing over 50 parts.”

Notwithstanding the difficulties, Mr. Fleming spoke about he is a well-seasoned playwright, highly conversant with the oral tradition and cultural history of Anguilla. His upcoming revolutionary play, to be repeated several times, is generally expected to be one of his very best productions. The various audiences will be the real judges.

anguillian
By anguillian May 22, 2017 10:12

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