Big issues: myth, metaphor and mystery
A cross-section of society turned out at the Earl Cameron Theatre last week, eager to celebrate Bermuda and her people through the spoken word.
They were there for the Uniquely Bermudian Musings of Jeremy Frith & Friends, an offering of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts.
Hosted by Kim Dismont-Robinson and Yesha Townsend, Wednesday’s event delivered on its promise to “laugh, have fun and enjoy an evening of uniquely Bermudian poetry, spoken word and music”.
Jeremy Frith died in 2009. Widely known for his collection of local vernacular poetic essays, Oh Gawd, I Vish Dis Ig’rance Vud Stop!, the late farmer and conservationist was “closely aligned” with the “values and objectives” of BEST.
Stuart Hayward, the former head of the environmental charity, opened the evening with a tribute, celebrating Frith’s appreciation for the generosity of the land, her people and their unique way of expressing themselves. He also outlined the life of this nonconformist and visionary who inspired many of the next generation of poets and prophets.
At times challenging, the subject matter explored universal issues in a uniquely Bermudian way: big issues like race, same-sex marriage, the environment, and the creative process shared air time with saucy calypso, bad beginner husbands and road rash. Delivered in song, rap, film and more traditional poetic form, the ideas presented resonated with an audience that reflected the diversity of Bermuda’s society.
Recordings by Jeffrey Marshall of Jeremy Frith reading his own poems were interspersed between readings by Bermudian poets and spoken word artists and tributes from Frith’s two sons. Myth, metaphor and mystery presented by 18 different performers in a chorus of accents offered a unique perspective on Bermudian culture.
Given the range of pieces presented, it is impossible to mention them all in such a short review. However, some stood out.
Andra Simons’s multimedia Womb Child created a haunting image of the persona, trapped behind an impervious membrane, struggling to express himself.
Kim Dismont-Robinson, Alan Smith and Chris Astwood explored the challenges of the creative process, while Arthur “De” DeSilva drew a delightful portrait of his friend “Bungy” in Ladder to de Aditor.
Yesha Townsend’s Catalogue of Bermudian Scars and Nick Hutchings’s White Gombey resonated with the audience, who responded with a chorus of “yes” and “amen”.
Debbie Lombardo paid tribute to the “Point Girls” and their rough-and-ready ways, while Paul Maddern honoured lost friends in Queer Lit and In the Castro. Adum Reb (Keamon Woolaston) delivered an epic Voluntary Assignment.
Some, such as the songs sung by Christina Frith and Heather Nova, offered sweet delight, while others, such as Patricka Ferguson’s Glowed: Apologies Overdue and Tiffany Paynter’s God Gap resulted in passion spilling over into polemic. Venerating the vernacular, the evening’s performances were by turns challenging, entertaining and amusing, and entirely satisfying. “Yes aye” and “amen” to that.
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