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Dawkins explores older person's rural-to-urban experience - 'Maas Mat Comes to Town' opens December 27

Published:Monday | December 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMMelville Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Playwright and producer Basil Dawkins.
E. Wayne McDonald

While the Jamaican theatre season opens on Boxing Day with the curtains going up on a slew of new productions, playwright Basil Dawkins will put Maas Mat Comes to Town on stage at the Little Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, St Andrew, a day after.

He is not unaccustomed to December openings, having debuted a new production annually for close to 15 years. But this time around, there is a relationship between last year's production and the 2018 offering - although Dawkins makes it clear it is not a sequel.

So Maas Mat, played by Earl Brown, remains, and Ruth HoShing and Maylene Lowe also return in what Dawkins describes as a new chapter in their lives - a drop-in on them several years later. "It is an entirely different story. Last year, Maas Mat's son fell on hard times in Kingston, and he and his wife went to 'cotch' with Maas Mat. Now, circumstances have changed, and Maas Mat has to go to them in Kingston," Dawkins said. An exploration of the issues an older person faces living in Kingston for the first time follows. Dawkins notes that in some instances, the actors had not considered the implications of the adjustment previously.

However, while there is a healthy serving of humour, it is not all rapping on the funny bone, as Dawkins describes Maas Mat Comes to Town as a "funny kind of heart-tugging story that will engage, and will have the same kid of laughter, and will even make you cry. It is not a tragic comedy, but the issues it deals with people will find absolutely relatable".

With the continuity surrounding Maas Mat Comes to Town, there is one notable change in director E. Wayne McDonald, after Dawkins partnering with director Douglas Prout (who now lives in Canada) in previous years.

"McDonald directed the mini-season of Uptown Bangarang in October at the Little Theatre. I was quite happy with what he did, and I asked him to direct this one," Dawkins aid.

He is, of course, conscious of the slew of other productions opening for the 2018-2019 Jamaican theatre season and also quips about the "easier choices - you can stay at yu yard and watch some wicked movie on Netflix". However, Dawkins remains confident of a successful run, based on a foundation established well before he got queries about the futures of last year's characters, which led to this follow-up on their lives. "People expect a certain quality from me, and I endeavour to maintain that standard," he said. Part of that is being palatable for the entire family, with "no nudity, no lewdity. Nobody will have to cringe because of what is on stage".

"I am going to be OK," Dawkins said, pointing to a longevity that sees parents who have connected with his plays telling their children about them, who then pick up on attending.

Next February will mark 38 years since Dawkins presented Flatmate at The Barn in New Kingston, well within comfortable walking distance from the Little Little Theatre. That play featured Ruth HoShing, Alwyn Scott, Dorothy Cunningham, Earl Marsh, and Harold Newell Jr.