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Monday 27 January 2020
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Les Coteaux – the folklore capital

Laughter, fun, tradition in strong message

File photo: A scene from the Tobago Heritage Festival presentation put on by the Les Coteaux Close Connection Cultural Club in July. 

PHOTO COURTESY Division of Tourism & Culture
File photo: A scene from the Tobago Heritage Festival presentation put on by the Les Coteaux Close Connection Cultural Club in July. PHOTO COURTESY Division of Tourism & Culture

Les Coteaux staked its claim as Tobago's folklore capital last Thursday night, presenting a hilarious yet thought-provoking skit at the Tobago Heritage Festival.

Held at the Tablepiece Recreation Ground, the production, hosted by the Les Coteaux Close Connection Cultural Club, was titled From Heaven To Hell and Back – Breaking The Silence. It addressed a mother's desire to end the cycle of abuse in her family.

One of the more eagerly-anticipated productions of the heritage season, Les Coteaux is known for rib-tickling humour, flawless stage performances and strict adherence to its folklore traditions.

And this year, the community, which nurtured late calypsonian Winston Bailey (Shadow), did not disappoint but left patrons on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next scene.

Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and other members of the Assembly, including representative for Speyside/L'Anse Fourmi/Delaford Farley Augustine, attended the event.

In her welcome address, Carion Job, president of the Les Coteaux Close Connection Cultural Club, alluded to the village's reputation as the island's mecca of folklore and superstition.

She joked this was one of the reasons why Republic Bank Ltd has been sponsoring the club's heritage production over the past 14 years.

A woman looks to hit a man with an enamel potty in Les Coteaux's From Heaven To Hell and Back - Breaking The Silence presentation last Thursday at Tablepiece Recreation Ground. PHOTO COURTESY DIVISION OF TOURISM AND CULTURE

"It is the reason why we does promote graveyard there in the front of our stage (referring to a make-believe graveyard)," Job said amid chuckles and applause from the audience.

"Republic Bank have no other choice but to sponsor us. We tied them 14 years ago. So they cannot help themselves."

From Heaven to Hell and Back – Breaking The Silence began with a drum call and musical procession, in keeping with true African tradition.

Four young women, dressed in white, flowing dresses and blue headpieces, accompanied by other performers, danced their way through the audience and onto the stage as a variety of folk songs played in the background.

The group then sang the village's heritage theme song, before performing what they called a cleansing dance.

A woman warns a man at Les Coteaux's Tobago Heritage Festival production at Tablepiece Recreation Ground. DIVISION OF TOURISM & CULTURE

Essentially, the production focussed on a mother, Netta (Carion Job), who married into an abusive relationship at the age of 17. Shortly after the marriage, Winston (Jeremy Noel) starts to beat her, "killing me slowly."

After years of abuse, Winston passes away and his son, Dalbut (Philbert Davidson), vows he will never hurt or demean his wife, as his father had done, but will love and honour her.

But during his marriage, years later, the quiet Dalbut gets more than he bargained for in his relationship with Valyair (Giselle Donaldson-Yeates), a bossy, demanding and uncompromising woman who has no qualms about embarrassing Dalbut in front of family and people in their community.

Fed up of the abuse to which she and her son have been subjected to over the years, Netta, in a desperate gesture, encourages Dalbut to visit the village obeah man to find a way to subdue his wife's controlling ways.

The scenes, some of which focussed on infidelity, were replete with rum-shop gossip, black magic rituals and references to old African proverbs.

At the end of the three-hour production, the performers held hands and sang, Bind Us Together, as the community moved toward a new, more harmonious vision of itself.

A man performs a ritual with a cocoyea broom in the Les Coteaux Close Connection Cultural Club's production titled From Heaven To Hell and Back - Breaking The Silence, held last Thursday, PHOTO COURTESY DIVISION OF TOURISM & CULTURE

Speaking to Newsday afterwards, Donaldson-Yeates said the council tries to re-enact aspects of the village's traditions at the heritage festival.

"So, the situations that were depicted in the play was something that actually happened in the village years ago," she said.

She said the cast was pleased with the response of the audience to the presentation.

The heritage festival continues on Wednesday in Delaford with the Yabba Festival at King's Bay.

The festival ends on Thursday, Emancipation Day, with a stage show and street procession at Pigeon Point Heritage Park.

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