It seems that Miss Aggy and Pa Ben are at it again. Who you ask are these people? Well they are the main characters in possibly one of the most beloved West Indian plays written by the legendary Trevor Rhone several decades ago.
Old Story Time has once again been mounted and though the actors are different, the significance and poignancy of the words have not changed. The theme of self hate still resonates and is prevalent in our own present day society as many of us subconsciously are still affecting by the notion that 'anything too black nuh good!'
The play which opened a week ago is a literature classic enjoyed by many students in high school yet one wonders if they truly grasp what the writer was trying to convey, that despite our material successes, without self worth it is all meaningless. Only the acceptance of who we are as human beings can lead to true happiness and lasting peace.
The play centres around Miss Aggy (Dorothy Cunningham), a strong willed, determined mother whose only son Len (Devon Yetman) was born with a brilliant mind and upon realising this she ensured that nothing and no one would stand in the way of his success. That meant that every black girl in the district including Pearl (Keneisha Bowes) was off limits as she saw them as obstacles to her son's future and was not having any of it. The only person deemed good enough for Len was Miss Margaret, the reverend pretty brown-skinned daughter with the 'tall' hair.
Pa Ben the narrator (Winston Bell) is Miss Aggy's best friend and often tries to reason with her especially about her hatred for Len's wife Lois (Patria-Kaye Aarons)who when Aggy discovered was black, refused to have anything to do with her. It took Len's cleansing his soul about the horrors of his teenage years at boarding school as a scholarship winner and a poor, black child left to the mercy of the privileged and entitled such as George McFarlane (Michael Forrester) that she finally realised that love and not hate was the best motivator for success.
The set is minimalist and works as the play is set in an era of simplicity that we unfortunately can never return to. One immediately realises that back then story telling was a huge form of evening entertainment as there were no television, cable or reality TV plus no ipod and Facebook and all the distractions that keep children from truly being children. Life was simple but pure as adults had authority and children learnt manners and showed respect to their elders even when they did not necessarily agree with their methods.
Gripping and just as powerful as when it first debuted years ago Old Story Time had patrons in tears as many related to the pain and raw emotion evoked by the dialogue. Rhone's words have no less significance than it did years ago. In fact, in a nation where bleaching cream and false hair has become almost a national obsession it is even more relevant. Indeed every child over ten should see this play as it seriously has the potential to change lives.
Photo Credit: NCW Photos