New Book: Patricia Cumper’s “Inner Yardie: three plays”

inner-yardieAward-winning playwright and radio dramatist Patricia Cumper MBE launched her anthology Inner Yardie: three plays (published by Peepal Tree Press, 2014) earlier this evening.

Patricia Cumper is a former Artistic Director and CEO of Talawa Theatre Company, the UK’s largest Black British Theatre Company. In 2013 Patricia established StrongBack Productions with composer Dominique Le Gendre. StrongBack Productions builds on the artistic directors’ shared passion for telling stories, entertaining audiences and celebrating Britain’s diverse culture.  Rooted in the synergies of Caribbean culture and music and with a strong understanding of the role of culture in post-colonial societies, StrongBack embraces the complex and vibrant reality of diverse Britain, and draws inspiration from the communities around the world that contribute to the day to day life of the nation. Cumper is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and was awarded an MBE for services to Black British Theatre in the 2012 New Year’s Honours List.

Description: The three classic Caribbean plays collected in Inner Yardie have been performed to great acclaim and are now available to readers. Playwright Patricia Cumper reveals that the motivation for each of the plays was anger. The Rapist, which ran for six months in Jamaica, involves a rapist who insinuates himself into the trust of the main character, Sharon Williams, but the fury inside the play is as concerned with the repressive dynamics of a respectable middle-class family as it is to do with a specific act of misogynist violence. With lines that challenge the audience to laughter, and then to question why they are laughing, The Rapist remains a powerful piece of theater about gender in the Caribbean.

The impetus for the ambitious and effective attempt to take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in Benny’s Song was no less to do with fury-with the political violence that was sweeping up and destroying the lives of so many young people in Jamaica in the 1980s. In the nation-language of the streets and in lyric verse, Benny’s Song adapts the narrative of star-crossed love in Shakespeare’s play to the tragic mix of ideology, communal loyalties, criminality, and the tempting erotics of violence in the ghettos of Kingston.

The third play, The Key Game, is set in a run-down psychiatric hospital in Jamaica, though one of the characters, Dappo, is sure his madness resulted from his time in Britain. Though none of the inmates have any love for the institution, all are in a state of panic when their nurse, Norman, tells them that the government is demolishing the hospital and that they are to be released into the community. But this is not really a play about care in the community. What Dappo, Gonzalez, and Shakespeare must confront are issues of a far more existential kind, their fear of freedom, and their damaged sense of themselves as men in relationship to women.

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