Fabrice Barker lives life in theatre

Fabrice Barker, actor, singer and Spiritual Baptist/Orisa devotee poses at the base of a silk cotton tree. - Photo by Faith Ayoung
Fabrice Barker, actor, singer and Spiritual Baptist/Orisa devotee poses at the base of a silk cotton tree. - Photo by Faith Ayoung

THEATRE practitioner and Spiritual Baptist/Orisa devotee Fabrice Barker’s love of theatre and performance should come as no surprise when you realise he grew up in a musical household. His father is Adrian Philbert, frontline vocalist for Charlie’s Roots, Second Imij and Blue Ventures.

Barker said while his grandfather and grandmother on his father’s side were Jehovah’s Witnesses, his father and grandfather could and did sing. His father’s job meant Barker grew up around the likes of David Rudder, Ella Andall and Singing Sandra.

“That is why everybody in the entertainment industry knows Fabrice. My mother used to tell me she knows half the world, and the other half knew her, and now I know what she was talking about. I used to hate walking down the road and so many people would stop to greet her, but now that is me. I don’t mind though, it helps keep me straight, make sure I’m not doing anything I’m not supposed to do.”

Barker said there were several people who contributed to his development as a performer. The first was the choir teacher at his primary school.

“I went to Rosary Boys RC School, and the choir teacher there from Standard Two was Mr Cadogan. I became head of the Rosary Boys choir there. It was there I found a love of performance at that time.

“From there I went to Tranquillity Government Secondary School, where I met the best music teacher in the word, Chesterton Ali, now deceased. He was the most brilliant devil ever. He is who really gave me a love for performance because it was a discipline. I started to mould my discipline at this time. I was part of the Drama Club, I did some acting but I was more of a vocalist, a tenor. I did Music Festival for a long time.”

After leaving high school, Barker moved out to live with his sister-in-law as his family did not agree with his acting ambitions.

“Because my father’s mother and father were Jehovah’s Witnesses, they felt performance shouldn’t be in the cards for me, but I was rebellious. When I finished school, I left home. At that time I was doing Best Village, working with Bon Bassa Productions from Barataria. It means good bacchanal. There I met comedian Dolores Alexander.

“Acting came natural to me. My parents always used to say ‘you’s a dramatist eh, you love drama.’ Then in 2010 NAPA was opening, and I got a call from Davlin Thomas out of nowhere to come to a rehearsal for Cerro Del Aripo. He explained the show etc. That’s where I met Margaret Gittens.

“I played King Candlefly, in a bodysuit and a pink tutu, he was flitting all over the place. People were rolling in the aisle.”

After the play, Gittens asked Barker if he had done formal training and when he said no, she advised him to go to actress Penelope Spencer at Necessary Arts on Dundonald Street in Port of Spain.

“It was a fantastic experience. I call her Aunty Penny, my theatre mother, because she’s the one who gave me my solid footing in proper theatre etiquette and training. We did all kinds of different shows, I played one of the wise men at Christmas time, a Dame Lorraine, the works.”

Fabrice Barker, actor, singer and Spiritual Baptist/Orisa devotee reminisces about the events of his life. - Photo by Faith Ayoung

Barker then decided to get into film and got his Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) in television and video production, working with Stephen Lee Pow at YTEPP.

“We were working on a film final project called Crush That Crush and then our dreams really did get crushed, because something went wrong with the computer and we lost all that footage. But we had to move past that disappointment.”

Through Necessary Arts, Barker auditioned for and got a part in RS&RR’s production of Eat Ah Food in 2012, playing the policeman opposite Debra Boucaud-Mason, Cecilia Salazar, Nigel Auguste, Richard Ragoobarsingh, Leslie Ann Lavine, Ria Ali and Leston Paul.

He wrote, produced, directed and acted in the short film Ma Mas, which Bon Bassa Productions entered in a National Film Company competition in 2013, and worked on short films with director Sean Escayg. The film Fish won the Best Short Film award in the Belize Film Festival in 2012.

Barker also acted in the film Home Again, starring CCH Pounder and Tatyana Ali, released in 2013. He was the line producer on the feature film The Lies We Tell, written and produced by Keith Guevara.

He said he had a love of children’s theatre, which he indulged when he worked with Carvalho Productions. He said the productions were fantastic and of a high quality. He has fond memories of working on The Lion King and other productions.

At this time, Barker was living downstairs Pamberi Steel Orchestra panyard’s basement and working with Chris Quamie, who he credited with teaching him prop making and set design skills.

Quamie loaned him the funds to audition for the National Theatre Arts Company (NTAC) in 2012. Barker was initially hesitant as he did not have a theatre degree. He credits actor Marvin Dowridge with assisting him in getting through the dance part of the three-day audition. He worked under the direction of Gemma Redmond and Belinda Barnes. He said actor Ralph Campbell helped him further develop in theatre.

Barker said the job was a good one, where the actors trained for eight hours a day and got a monthly salary, which meant the production quality was good.

“There were people who would come in and do residencies, including Ralph Campbell and Raymond Choo Kong. We were very lucky to have these opportunities and we were able to meet a lot of playwrights. We met Mustapha Matura when we did his production. The Shakespeare Globe Theatre did a piece at SAPA.

“When I saw the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, which is supposed to be one of the premier companies of the world, I saw English Best Village and I was shocked. If the world can appreciate Shakespeare and know Shakespeare was telling their own stories, was their Best Village, why up to now in 2024, we don’t give Best Village productions the respect they deserve?”

Barker said collaborations with the National Steel Symphony Orchestra, the National Philharmonic Orchestra, the University of Trinidad and Tobago and other institutions was an enjoyable part of the job. He worked with NTAC from 2014-2019.

Following the non-renewal of his contract with NTAC, Barker became disillusioned with life on-stage. He began hosting events for Carnival, like the Young Kings competition, designed and constructed sets and props for Carnival, and worked and studied with Quamie.

He returned to the stage in May 2024 as Leader Sandy, Calypso Rose’s father, and Piggy in the calypso musical Queen of the Road – The Calypso Rose Musical by Rhoma Spencer.

“I got a call from Triston Wallace who said he had a role for me, I was perfect for it. I was going to refuse but then I asked who was directing and he said Rhoma. All the hairs on my hands stood up and I said I was coming. I’m a spiritual man and to me that was a sign.”

Barker said when he arrived at the venue, Marsha 'Lady Adanna' Clifton said, “Look Leader Sandy reach,” and he took that as a further sign.

“I channel Geoffrey Holder a lot, so when I walked into the audition, I was like, I am here! Then I looked around and saw Rhoma, Alicia Jagassar, Michelle Henry, Christopher Sheppard, Stacey Sobers, and I felt I had it. They also kept calling me back to read opposite other characters on the day.”

Barker said he enjoyed working on the production, which was held at the Central Bank Auditorium.

“The production team was excellent, the cast was nice, there’s nothing negative that needs to be said. There were ups and downs as with any production.

“Rhoma Spencer is a theatre giant, an elder. She’s older than most theatre practitioners out there and still doing the work.

“She taught me a new technique called verb tactics, that I never learned in all the years I was with NTAC. It made acting a no-brainer, it’s about understanding the verb in your action, understanding why you are doing a particular action on stage, it makes it so much easier. I call it the Rhoma, even though she tells me it’s a technique from Stanislavski.”

Barker also became a Best Village tutor in 2024, working with Febeau Primary School. He said they won several categories last year and will continue to win, especially the categories that involve writing.

“When I was going to school, English was serious business. My grandmother would say ‘if you fail English, make sure and let a bus hit you before you come back in this house.'”

Barker said working with children is very important. He said being part of Queen of the Road had given him the impetus to start his own children’s theatre troupe.

“It will be Ori Productions. Ori means inner spirit self. Already since I announced it I’ve had 50 message from parents wanting to join and asking how they can pay.

“I love kids, I love theatre. Working with Thara Howe has made me see the importance of it even more. I want to inculcate proper theatre practices in them, including international theatre practices, so when they grow up and decide to pursue theatre here or abroad, they will be a cut above the rest.”

It was during his time at NTAC that Barker became a practitioner of the Spiritual Baptist faith. His mother, mother’s mother, and siblings were Baptist/Orisa practitioners from Tunapuna, but he joined the faith late as he had grown up with his father.

He was asked by fellow actor Adam Ade Ola Pascall to film a feast, the only caveat being that he could not record any manifestations. At the end of the four-night festival, he had a spiritual experience which he said felt like coming home.

A few months later, he was invited by fellow actor Lalonde Ochoa to visit a shrine near his home in Tabaquite. It was there that he met his spiritual father Frank “Shango Kemi” Moore, of Manbode Trace, who was shot in January 2024. Barker said he began a deep dive into the depths of spirituality with Pa, as he called Moore.

“I wasn’t in a relationship, so for the first five years I did nothing but eat, sleep and practice. After that I moved up swiftly in the ranks. I became a king shepherd, then a young leader/baptiser, then I got robed, I got spiritual children, etc. I have beautiful memories of Pa sending me to do rituals, not knowing he was training me to do it. My title is now Leader Fabrice Barker The Asoju Obaluaye for Trinidad and Tobago in the Obaluaye Worshippers Council of Trinidad and Tobago.

Fabrice Barker, left, as Leader Sandy, confronting his daughter Calypso Rose, played by Stacey Sobers, as her Aunt Edith (Karen Francisco) looks on. -

He said he was an outgoing person because of his theatre and his creativity.

“I am what Obatala, the lord of white cloth, has made me to be. I am outgoing. Because of my work in theatre, I understand how to do things on a grand scale. I will be who I am. If we’re really spiritual, we need to allow people to be themselves, not who we want them to be, or we’re tapping into a religious setting and we’re not really spiritual.”

Barker is building his shrine at Roopsingh Road, Waterloo. Every year on August 1, he and his wife Jennisha host the Omo Omi (Water Children) Festival in Salybia.

“There are some people who say I now come because they wonder how come I’ve reached this level, but this is Spiritual Baptist, what God has put for you, no man can put against you. I questioned God a lot about why he’s giving me this thing to do, but he told me I needed to do it. I’ve done a lot of things people said are big because I’m following what God said to do.”


"Fabrice Barker lives life in theatre"

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