Devon Dick | Basil makes your pressure drop
Basil Dawkins, in one of his better plays, uses the biblical parables of the prodigal son and Noah's Ark as the backdrop to his newest play, Pressure Drop. Pressure Drop is the title of a song by reggae icons Toots & the Maytals. Pressure 'buss' pipe, and when pressure builds up in a family or country, the results can be chaotic.
The play is a story about the return of a son with family with problems from city life to the safety of his father's house in rural Jamaica. However, there are twists and turns as pressure is caused by illness, addiction, bankruptcy and invasion of one's space.
In this play, there was the clear articulation of the importance of rural values such as feeding oneself and one's family; drinking of a hot beverage first thing in the morning; the significance of owning one's home and not just renting; not borrowing money at usurious rates; independence of thought and candid speaking; distinction between what is for public consumption in terms of sexuality and dress and what should be private; love and commitment in interracial marriage; respect for loved ones who are dead; and care for persons who are sick and dying, aged, weak and vulnerable.
These values are still relevant. Hence this play fits well into the Jamaica Agricultural Society's campaign to grow local and buy Jamaican. In addition, everybody wants to own a piece of the 'Rock'. Perhaps the lack of appreciation for computers was overdone and not stereotypical of rural life.
Dawkins dealt with the 'sick one' sensitively. Many young relatives are not handling well their loved ones who are suffering from dementia. They are even afraid to visit them because they do not know what to say or what to do.
In addition, Dawkins dealt with addiction to alcohol and hard drugs realistically, showing the financial and emotional harm it can cause a family.
Furthermore, he did not stereotype this addiction as a gender problem. He was also clever in making a distinction between an alcoholic and a person who takes a drink daily for 'the stomach sake'.
The use of proverbs was memorable, and interspersing the play with hymns was astute. Other rural talk was amusing such as 'Duppy bus seeing you but you cannot see it.' Dawkins has elevated the importance of folk wisdom as a means of dealing with our chronic socio-economic problems. There were other gems of folk wisdom such as 'talking with water in mi mouth'. Folk wisdom has important principles that inspire us to cope with challenges.
The acting was good and the lead actor is a good singer who was very familiar with many favourites from Great Christian Hymns of our time by Canon K.D. Pronger. 'You waan see' as a catchphrase was ridiculed as a precursor to foolish talk. The set was great. It had space at the sides for characters to run; not the concrete jungle of apartments and town houses. There was the horseshoe over the door (symbol of good luck); there was the hat of the deceased widow (sign of respect); calling of the deceased wife's name and meaning no harm (sign of love); bottle torch (sign of industry); the empty rum bottles, face basin, rope used as a belt in one's pants (rural life at its best).
This play is quite enjoyable, as it dealt with serious issues. Too often we perceive playwrights as just giving us laughs, but this play is offering old-time rural values and folk wisdom as a means to overcome rural blight, deal with the monster of killings, and build a kinder society.
- The Rev Dr Devon Dick is a Baptist pastor and author. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.