Prayer Changes Things

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AuthorHouse, May 30, 2003 - 480 pages
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Jean and Dinah, Rosita and Clementina
Round the Corner Posing,
Bet your life is something they selling . . .'
- The Mighty Sparrow -

Jean and Dinah . . . orchestrates itself out of the calypso Yankees Gone also known as Jean and Dinah, sung by the Mighty Sparrow in 1956. This calypso was a male response to the influence of the occupying Yankees on local girls in the post World War II period. The play is a tragi-comedy set in present-day Port-of Spain, Trinidad, in Act One, then in Act two, the characters take us some 40 years back to their theatre of the streets of Port of Spain.

It is Jouvay morning, the dawn of Carnival Monday and Jean comes to take her friend, Dinah, to play mas (masquerade) in the city as they have done for the past forty years. This year, however, Dinah is tired and ailing and does not want to go. Jean tries desperately to rally her into making their annual pilgrimage through the streets where they play sailor mas on Carnival Tuesday.

In the ensuing battle to get Dinah out of bed onto the streets of Port of Spain, both women discover things about themselves that shaped their lives. This play gives the women in Sparrow's calypso a voice. Their stories take us on an emotional roller coaster of laughter, pain and sorrow.

"Tony Hall's play Jean and Dinah . . . is one of the finest pieces of West Indian theatre I have seen in years-- it--never surrenders its raw, poignant humour, its rhythm that mimics that of Carnival music, and when I saw it performed by two excellent actresses I felt continuous astonishment, delight and pride."

Derek Walcott, Nobel Laureate
March 8, 1997.

"It not only succeeds, it triumphs by committed, at times inspired acting and play and poise by Rhoma and Penelope Spencer."

Earl Lovelace, Novelist
Trinidad Sunday Express, December 11, 1994.

Jean and Dinah is lively, amusing and often touching, with some powerful moments.

Judy Raymond, Journalist
Trinidad Express, December 7, 1994.

The context of the play commands Caribbean, but especially Trinidadian, jamette history - all those who live below the diameter of respectable society. Badjohns such as Mastife, Batonier and Hannibal, and legendary women of the streets such as Alice Sugar and Boadicea (Bodi) are invoked as part of its natural landscape. Creole language is also interestingly utilized, commanding calypso as poetic and literary referential points along with Shakespeare and the Romantics.

Rambai Espinet, Poet

Toronto, August 2001.

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