Moon on a Rainbow Shawl

4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
Theatre_Moon On Rainbow Sha.jpg
© Jonathan Keenan Moon on Rainbow

All life is crammed into a tiny, Trinidadian back yard in Errol John's bruising, brilliantly witty 1953 play. The inhabitants of five, down-at-heel rooms (lovingly rendered in Soutra Gilmour's weatherbeaten design) bicker, spit and tease tales from each other as they jostle around the single water tap, or the shared outhouse.

It's as hard to keep a secret as it is to starch your whites here, but dreams are nursed by all. Esther yearns to take up her scholarship at the big, expensive school; café- girl Rosa feels new life stirring in her belly; her lover, Ephraim, a terse trolley driver with unplumbed depths in Danny Sapani's magnetic performance, is only dreaming of his escape route to the old world.

It is the women who rule this space, and director Michael Buffong's stage. Jenny Jules's show-stoppingly bitchy hooker, Mavis, is engaged in an unceasing war with a foreboding matriarch, Martina Laird's frowsy, formidable cleaning lady, Sophia. Conducted through every raised eyebrow and tossed chin, their hostilities prove an unfailing delight. And, as Rosa's buoyant happiness begins to sag, what's at stake takes on a dreadful resonance.

Buffong draws every ounce of comedy from John's wonderfully precise, West-Indian dialogue. In his huge-hearted production we are always aware of the frustrated love, pasting this impoverished, post-war community together.

The play hasn't aged perfectly: its plotting creaks on occasion, there are few surprises, and some characters are not fully fledged. But the lead performances are simply firecracker fare and, as the pressure mounts and bruises blossom, this cramped, highly particular Trinidadian yard becomes a window onto deprivation everywhere.