GAYELLE presenter Marcia Henville is about to feature in local musical Rampanalgas Sunrise... and still cannot quite believe it. Marcia Henville can relate to this song:
“I have left a home/Many miles away/I have come to roam/Here I’m going to stay/You got me rockin’/Rockin till the day I die”
The lyrics may relate to a character in the play, but it’s how this forthright, outgoing “Tringlish” woman — and Gayelle personality — feels about her move from London to Trinidad as well. She continues…
“Give me charity/Doesn’t matter much/If t’was up to me/I would skip the fuss/You got me rockin’/Rockin till the day I die.”
Marcia is finally living a dream. She’s belting out an internal audition for “Rockin til’ the Day I Die,” written by Roger Israel. This is just one of over 25 numbers that will be performed in her theatrical stage debut — local musical Rampanalgas Sunrise — at Queen’s Hall from December 8 to 12. Her voice is eager, her attitude confident and positive, and her accent distinctively English from south London. “This play! It’s fantastic! It’s crazy!” Marcia twangs unbelievingly. As a child her “overriding, consuming passion was to be an actress.” Over time she had begun to believe that this was not a realistic goal and had moved on with her life. “I had kind of forfeited that dream,” she says. Little did Marcia know that her own will and desire to be involved in the performing arts would cause the planets to align, and contrive, literally, to give her a place in the starlight.
She croons… “Could I be dreaming/I must be dreaming/Is this the real thing/Freedom at last I must do something/Before I go crazy and die” Israel’s velvet lyrics never waxed more truthfully than for multi-talented Marcia. But just how did she get here, on to the local big stage? Born in England to Trini parents 41 years ago, she comes from that most West Indian part of London, Notting Hill. She remembers her first visit to the land of steelpan and calypso where she turned from a “lass” into a “gyul.” Just 14 back then, she admits to having “mixed feelings” at the beginning of her trip. “I understood the creole food, and the outgoing temperament of the people, but at first calypso seemed very alien to me.” By the end of her eight-week stay she was extemporising to a different tune. “I came around Carnival and I was hooked in no time. All my doubts were completely gone and I swore I would return.”
And return she did. But not until she had learned to play pan at her mother’s insistence. She was influenced then by the Tabernacle “Tabby” Club in Notting Hill, which hosted many Trini calypsonians and steelbands such as Skiffle Bunch. “Every week there was a big bram in Tabby and a different steelband would play at the fete.” Her first steelband in England was the Metronome Steel Orchestra. On regular visits to Trinidad from age 21 onwards, Marcia honed her pan skills, playing her specialty double-seconds with Neal & Massy All Stars several times. Her best placing with the band was fourth in 1987, when she beat her favourite pan-tune, “Curry Tabanca.” According to Marcia, coming to Trinidad to play pan for Carnival is something of a coming-of-age pilgrimage for would-be playing “pannoisseurs.” “It’s a big thing, to journey to Trinidad for Panorama,” she says. “That’s how you know if you’re any good at pan playing, if you can make it in Trinidad.”
Marcia certainly made it in Trinidad as a pan player. And since emigrating here nine years ago, she’s also succeeded at the Trinidad Express where she left after five years as assistant news editor; at First Citizen’s Bank, where she was communications manager for nearly two years; and is currently a popular presenter on Gayelle television station. And if that was not enough, she’s managed her time to have two beautiful children in between. “I called everybody, Raymond (Choo Kong) and Baggasse, and nothing happened.” Try as she might, including a course with Freddie Kissoon, Marcia just could not seem to get into local theatre as a performer. “Then at the Lion King auditions I saw Louris (Lee-Sing). She told me she was producing Rampanalgas Sunrise, that Helen Camps had written and was going to direct, and asked if I’d like to get involved.”
Marcia thought about it. With her time commitments to Gayelle and family she figured it was not going to be possible. Then, in an unrelated conversation, Deborah “Philomena” Maillard told Marcia that if she wanted to get into theatre the person to check was Helen Camps as she was the “best thing in drama in Trinidad.” “That’s when the penny dropped,” laughs Marcia. She had been offered a chance to work with Camps in a musical that involved not only acting, but singing and dancing as well. “I became more intrigued and excited than ever because there was dance in it, and voice training too.” So Marcia went to a rehearsal and now, at age 41, stands on the threshold of a lifelong ambition to become a stage performer. She is unstinting in praise for the Brown Cotton Theatre Ensemble (a collaborative formed by Helen Camps, Louris Lee-Sing and Wayne Lee-Sing) and the way musical theatre is being used as a vehicle for training young people life skills such as personality development, communication skills, posture, voice, movement, mediation, team-building and group awareness.
“This play taxes me in ways that I never dreamt. I couldn’t pay for this. All that I’ve learned here. Not at the salary I get,” she laughs. Marcia is also very active in her church, the Victory Christian Outreach Church in Belmont. She is involved there in small church productions she writes and directs. Her Rampanalgas experience has become invaluable. “It’s taken me to another level. I understand much better how to direct and manage people,” she says. Despite admitting that when she first read Rampanalgas Sunrise she did not have a clue what was going on, this Trini gyul from Notting Hill has fallen in love with this play she calls “fantastic,” and it’s underlying message of the dangers of over-consumerism. “I’ve always had a passion for the arts. I always say that if I had to live my life all over again, I’d be an actor, a dancer and an athlete.” Well, except for the athlete, Marcia does not need to wait anymore.