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Play Mas

Lori Barker, Seun Shote and Llewella Gideon in Play Mas, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. Photo: Tristram Kenton Lori Barker, Seun Shote and Llewella Gideon in Play Mas, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Paul Miller’s invigorating inaugural season at the Orange Tree sees things shift tonally once again. Paulette Randall’s revival of Mustapha Matura’s 1974 play is layered and entertaining.

Set in Trinidad and spanning the years between colonial rule and independence, it starts off in an amiable, comic vein but soon morphs into something sharper and stranger.

The idea of masquerade is at the centre of the play, carnival as a time of inversion and transformation, where one can become something other. Ramjohn, the tailor, and his assistant, Samuel, come from different social and cultural backgrounds but are united by their love of film. Once the carnival drums start to beat the laughs become more uneasy, as a series of characters in elaborate costume come to visit Ramjohn like Dickensian spectres.

The satirical undercurrents become more overt in its later scenes as the balance of power shifts, but it sometimes feels like the production, while exuberant, is struggling to keep up with the writing’s vaulting quality, its complex interrogation of politics and corruption; Seun Shote is, however, an affable central presence as Samuel which makes his character’s evolution all the more unsettling.

Dates: March 11-April 11, PN March1

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