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Thursday 19 September 2019
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Living life in TT

Talk Tent dishes on how much country has changed

Paul Keens-Doulgas perform at the Talk Tent on Friday at Queen's Hall, St. Ann's, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE
Paul Keens-Doulgas perform at the Talk Tent on Friday at Queen's Hall, St. Ann's, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE

The Talk Tent, which has become a cultural fixture since its first production in 1983, this year comically gave commentaries on the evolution of TT.

On the stage of Queen's Hall, Port of Spain.from March 8-10, the presenters explored the current realities of life here, the changing cultural landscape, and how globalisation has affected the country.

They included one of the most renowned raconteurs in the Caribbean, founder of the Talk Tent Paul Keens- Douglas, Miguel Browne, Avion Crooks, Farida Chapman, Felix Edinborough, special guest Alexandra Stewart and singing MC David Bereaux.

Pierrot Grenade perform at the Talk Tent on Friday at Queen's Hall St. Ann's, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE

Keens- Douglas told Newsday in an interview after the event, "It is not an easy thing to make people laugh, especially on a stage in front of an audience. The professional makes it look easy by using their body language and choices of topic."

Among the presenters, all of whom wrote their own pieces, was Avion Crooks. She delivered a story on how children have changed, through the experience of a teacher who has been in the profession for 33 years. Crooks' character commented on how not only the school system has evolved but the history of the country disappearing from the curriculum, as well as all the new ways of approaching discipline, which have seen corporal punishment removed from schools.

The character, who eagerly awaits her retirement said, "Tings getting reel tough. I want to write to the minister to tell him it's time for me to fire that wuk." She talked about how much more demanding the profession has become, and how much less involved parents are in the development of their children – placing more pressure on teachers. Her presentation had the audience laughing from start to finish.

Farida Chapman, in her piece on how a Trini Christmas has changed, said, "Long time, Christmas had a season: September, October, November December. Now Carnival come and fall on top of Christmas...Christmas really changed."

She captured the conversation of two middle-aged women sharing what Christmas was like for them, from childhood chores which included polishing wood floors with Mansion floor polish, to hanging greeting cards on a line in the living room.

The storytellers of Talk Tent, which Keens- Douglas says seeks to educate through spoken art, creatively infused humour into social commentary.

While the event was well subscribed, judging by the number of occupied seats, the variation in age range was disheartening. On Friday, the audience was made up mostly of middle-aged patrons and the elderly, with very few from younger generations.

This supported issues discussed in the show, arguably reflecting a debated shift in TT where young people prefer some parts of the culture like fetes more than the traditional events, under which Talk Tent falls.

Keens- Douglas said, however, there was a considerably good turnout of young people, but they attended mostly on the weekend.

"When we started," he explained, "there were not many shows after Carnival.

"But now we clash with a number of big, sponsored shows. We are not a sponsored show." He said sponsorship would help give the show the support it needs for expansion, which would allow it to reach a greater number of young people.

Nevertheless, he said, "I think it went very well. We got really great responses from the audience, who expressed that they thought it was a great show."

He said another challenge was that the production was not able to do repeat shows owing to difficulties in getting alternative venues where it would have gotten even greater exposure.

"As it is, this year's show was of high standard."

Keens-Douglas said he looks forward to continued collaboration with young performers, such as spoken-word artists, to continue this great TT tradition of storytelling.

"We are trying to preserve the old tradition of storytelling, where the voice and the art of storytelling was the most important thing," he said, making reference to the Talk Tent motto: "Where talk is art."

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