The show started promptly at 8 on opening night, March 3, with David Bereaux, the singing MC taking to the stage with energy and charisma to spare. He sang to the tune of “sans humanit?” which is used in extempo competitions to introduce the artistes.
“Talk tent, always a show of class,” he crooned.
Talk Tent founder, producer and master storyteller Paul Keens-Douglas made a brief appearance, telling the audience that making it their show of choice shows they were an “intelligent audience”. He explained that Talk Tent is about telling old and new stories and mostly about preserving values.
“We are the keepers of the next generation,” he said, also highlighting that the show was dedicated to the memory of the late Hal Greaves, a community activist and Talk Tent performer who died last year from a heart attack.
The first act up was pierrot grenade, Felix Edinborough, giving a colourful start to the show with his spelling puns, which were silly but amusing. At one point he got his jokes mixed up but kept on going like a pro.
Avion Crooks, who portrayed a chatty and effervescent snack vendor took to the stage and offered the audience her balls, including tamarind and paw paw. Her character was a fan of gossip and spilled the beans on several unseen characters. Her ridiculous stories, including one man with extremely bad teeth, had patrons cackling.
Spoken word artiste, Kleon McPherson, followed Crooks and was definitely one of the highlights of the show. His first act was a drunk man having a conversation with a police officer - the officer, a recording of what sounded like the artiste himself. The drunk man sought to escape without charge but when he could not explain why he was wearing the police officer’s uniform, he gave himself up.
His second act featured a man suffering stomach problems and urgently needing to use the toilet at a bank. The description of his bowel movements were poetic and hilarious.
McPherson’s act had an excellent musical delivery, great word play and barely missed a beat. By the vigourous applause he was clearly a crowd favourite.
Things got heavy and sobering with the next act, Farida Chapman, who explained to the audience that she usually does comedic pieces but for this year chose to do two pieces on social issues “plaguing us now”.
The first was Rise Up Woman, a powerful piece about a female victim of domestic violence being encouraged to get out of the experience.
This was followed by a piece on HIV/ AIDS in which the virus was anthropomorphised as demons trying to get into and destroy people’s lives. It was well-structured and educational without being judgemental. It addressed prevention the provision of support for people who are HIV positive.
“We all have to die, but let we die good,” she urged.
The evening got lighter with Miguel Browne, who performed Devon Matthews and Ella Andall’s D Journey. His act highlighted the journey of life and learning from ancestors at every step of the way.
His dry humour without punch lines was a bit of a slow burn, but when he got fired up he left the audience with quite a few laughs and some things on which to ponder.
He discussed a number of superstitions and the audience chimed in when he spoke about walking in backwards coming home late at night to avoid spirits following you in, or turning over a broom to get an unwanted guest to leave.
Browne lamented that we as a people have thrown away our stories and all the lessons they taught. When he advised that we use folk tales to build character and qualities in our people, one patron responded with a resounding “Yes! Yes!” The second half of the show opened with Bereaux singing vintage calypso, including King Solomon’s Santa and Lord Cristo’s Dumb Boy and the Parrot. The audience clearly enjoyed his set and were singing and clapping along.
The singing continued with special guest and vocalist Brian Carimbocas.
As he sang You Raise Me Up and a gospel duet, it was a pleasure to listen to his resonant voice, but he seemed a bit restrained and never belted out the high notes. His version of Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven and Andre Tanker’s Morena Osha were better, but his performance did feel somewhat out of place in the show and pulled down the energy generated by Bereaux.
Keens-Douglas followed and began with a piece on F?don’s Rebellion in Grenada.
His voice rose and dropped to almost a whisper as he wove the tale through the eyes of talking flora and fauna.
He then went into a new piece about the relationship between the sponsor and the artiste, and how he imagined it would be for a number of people on judgement day, including professional “stormers”, politicians, unethical businessmen and bankers.
“I want the bank to explain all them charges to God, and poor people cannot afford it,” he said.
He then did a piece in honour of Greaves, followed by a classic, humorous tale featuring his character Tanty Merle and her difficulties in trying to have her house renovated.
Some people laughed until they were in tears, while others choked on their guffaws. The master storyteller could have gone on for another hour and the audience wouldn’t have minded.
Calypsonian Short Pants (Llewellyn McIntosh) and his special brand of talk calypso -- talking the lyrics of a song instead of singing them -- brought the curtains down. His performance featured his risqu? rendition of Heather McIntosh’s We Taking Dick, based on the Thema Williams/ Marisa Dick gymnastics controversy, and The Finger, which encourages men to get tested for prostate cancer. On the request of Keens-Douglas, he did A Pushin’, encouraging the passing on of kaiso to the youth.
His performance was enjoyable and he especially left the audience in stitches as he talked Iwer George’s Take a Bathe -- something you really had to hear for yourself.