Inside the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port of Spain on Friday.
To say it got mixed reviews is an understatement. Some people loved it. Others hated it. I wish I had seen all of it. But of what I saw, the following moments from the opening cultural show for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting stood out most:
1. Dave Williams was golden.
He performed a shortened version from the opening act of his 'Scan-creation, civilisation, anarchy' piece. Unlike when he performed the full version of this piece at Queen's Hall earlier this year where he was draped in red, Williams was clothed in gold. It's a good thing too because under the lighting at the $518 million National Academy for the Performing Arts, we could barely see him. However, his moment was a triumph of technique and concentration; he quite literally placed everything in the hands of the world leaders gathered on stage before him. I wish he got to stay on longer though.
2. The poui trees are coming for you.
Words cannot describe my horror when I saw a clump of 'trees' walk on stage as though they were about to murder Willliams (see above). The man had not even finished dragging his golden skirt away, when they swooped down, men on stilts apparently embodying poui trees. And then, coconut carts stormed the stage, and some 'joggers' wearing tights and sweat shirts.
The intention was to "re-create" the Savannah. But if those gathered at the building called the National Academy for the Performing Arts in Port-of-Spain wanted to see the Savannah, all they had to do was open a window, or go outside and look across the street. Perhaps it's better that they did not, the Savannah now being the derelict clump of cement-cum-car-park tarmac that it has now become under successive Governments. It should have been a tribute, but I found it displeasing and unintentionally macabre.
3. Enter the chorus with oil drums.
The CHOGM opening ceremony cultural show followed a narrative, tracing the development of Trinidad society. The stage was big, and at points there were hints of Bollywood/Broadway. But we also had awkward moments like this one:
I think this segment could fairly be entitled, 'Here Comes the Oil to Bring Us to a New Level of Prosperity' or 'It's a Good Thing We Had An Oil Industry Because That Was The Prelude to the Invention of the Pan'.
4. The token pierrot.
No 'cultural' show in Trinidad and Tobago is complete without a sexed-up, token pierrot grenade figure. This time, one appeared on stage for about ten seconds. In a stroke of poetic genius from the producers, she/he said not a word; a fitting symbol of the fate of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Instead, the pierrot mimed to the sound of a voice-over narrator telling us about the Savannah, saying things like: "You can take your coconut or snow cone, sit back in your bench and soak it all in. A one of a kind taste of Trini life."
Amidst all of the turbulent change happening in Trinidad and Tobago, amidst the good times and the bad times, it's pleasing to know that some things will never change. That's what I felt when I saw Denyse Plummer on stage singing for all of the Commonwealth leaders (and others like the Queen). Ahh...the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nah leaving!
6. Did it all really cost $20 million?
I guess we'll never know the real cost of this, I thought to myself as I quietly sipped my tea watching the show as it was broadcast live on television on Friday. I've heard some pretty high figures mentioned but until the Government reveals the cost, who knows? There's a rumour that it was $20 million. Sounds implausible? Well apparently another figure rumored for the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas in April was around $17 million.
WATCH the show yourself here. READ a review of William's performance here. All photos copyright www.chogm2009.org