O Babylon! The Musical
O Babylon! The Musical
4th February - 12th March 1988
Writter - Derek Walcott
Music - Galt Macdermott
Director - Yvonne Brewster
Producer - Jo Beddoe
Depicting Rastafarian squatters in Kingston, Jamaica, Derek Walcott’s play O, Babylon! was staged as a musical at the Riverside Studios by Talawa in 1988.
The play is both a love story, and the story of the Trench Town community's struggle for survival against the encroachment of Babylon, in the form of a new luxury hotel.
Among the stellar cast was Mona Hammond. Alongside her featured an unknown actress in her first professional role, Sharon D Clarke.
"As was becoming usual, younger less experienced practitioners joined the cast and production team, many of whom are now well established. These included Roger Griffith, Brian Bovell, Jenny Jules, and in her first professional appearance on stage Sharon D Clarke whose cartwheel in her shocking pink trouser suit was only overwhelmed by her singing."
The production marked a turning point in Talawa's fortunes. Following the 1988 production Talawa secured stable funding from the Arts Council, enabling them to produce up to three plays a year.
As Yvonne Brewster recalled:
"So we got our revenue funding after that show, and then they [Arts Council] brought us in and said, 'Well, what do you want to do now?' "
With its third production and a string of sell out shows behind it, Talawa was well on its way to establishing itself as a theatre company to watch. The foundations were being well laid.
A bright future beckoned.
"The three year old Talawa was (and still should be) indebted to the early selfless professional administrative help from Jo Beddoe and Mary Lauder, at whose insistence proper records were kept."
William Vanderpuye - Deacon Otto Doxy
Sharon D Clarke - Dolores Hope
Trevor Ward - Magistrate
Geraldine Connor - Mr Goldstein
Jason Rose - Percival Jones
Patrick Cameron - Policeman
Marcia Johnson - Priscilla
McKell Pendercuse - Ras Daniel
Adetomiwa Edun - Ras Edwin
Steven Woodcock - Ras Meshach / Arnold Dewes
Clifton Bryan - Ras Samuel
Tony Marshall - Ras Shadrach
Roger Griffiths - Rudolph Dawson
Lenny Algernon Edwards - Sergeant Barker / Ras Elijah
Josephine Melville - The Rudettes / Mrs Melanie Powers
Mona Hammond - Virginia Small
Malcolm Connell - Rufus Johnson
Sheilah Cuffey - Cast
Sandra Tavernier - Cast
Born in St Lucia, Walcott’s writing spanned theatre and journalism. His extraordinary 50 year career produced writing rooted in the rhythms of a life defined by his Caribbean childhood, while also exploring dislocation and exile.
His plays included, Henri Christophe, The Sea at Dauphin, Malcochon, Six in the Rain, Pantomime, Remembrance, Ti-Jean and His Brothers, Beef, No Chicken, The Odyssey, The Capeman, and numerous others, including O Babylon!
Depicting Rastafarian squatters in Kingston, Jamaica, O Babylon! was staged at the Riverside Studios by Talawa in 1988,
Walcott also directed Dominique Le Gendre’s version of Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes (itself a reworking of Sophocles’ Antigone) in the Globe theatre’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. His adaptation of his epic poem, Omeros, starring fellow St Lucian Joseph Marcell, was seen at the same venue in 2015.
Walcott was a prolific and admired poet, publishing 17 collections between 1948 and 2014, as well as seven other books. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.
Derek Alton Walcott was born on January 23, 1930 and died on March 17, aged 87.