McLean looks to the future

McLean looks to the future

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter

Friday, May 16, 2014

McLEAN… Miss Lou worked too hard for it to be looked on as less than…

WRITER/DIRECTOR Rayon McLean has a lot to say about local theatre. That’s why many see him as the future of the Jamaican industry.

“The pioneers have set the stage. The likes of a [Charles] Hyatt and Leonie Forbes have done the work. It is now time for us to take ourselves seriously, treat ourselves not just as entertainers and performers, but see the value in theatre. See theatre as a craft, for its academic value, for research, not just a laugh on a Sunday evening,” McLean, 25, states emphatically.

McLean, who hails from Clarendon, says he has always loved theatre. He recalls having an active imagination from as early as five years old which inspired him to write and create characters.

“Theatre gives you access to your dreams,” he reflects. “Growing up in rural Jamaica you had to dream and imagine, as there were so many things that you just did not have access to. I realised I could become any character… anything I wanted to be through theatre.”

The speech and drama festival organised by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) would become the vehicle of expression for McLean while still at May Pen Primary School. It continued at Glenmuir High School where McLean joined the school’s renowned choir but felt unfulfilled, stating that he yearned for something greater — he wanted to write and direct plays.

His ‘can-do’ attitude led him to convert some of his fellow choristers into dub poets, and they began to mine gold.

Within a short time, McLean and his colleagues began winning gold medals in JCDC’s festival of the arts. His first play, Erosion, was staged in 2008. The cast included Lisa Williams, Kerry Ann Cameron and Petrina Williams, who have moved on to work in local theatre.

McLean worked his way into the Jamaica Youth Theatre, and that gave him the confidence to form Quilt, his own performance troupe. This has allowed him to spread his wings as a writer/director.

This has paid dividends for Quilt, which is one of six companies invited to perform at Contacting The World Festival in Manchester, England, later this year.

McLean is excited at the propects for his actors and company, but a lack of funding to make the trip is an obstacle. Which brings him back to the need for local theatre to be taken seriously.

“I want the world to see Jamaican theatre. Miss Lou worked too hard for it to be looked on as less than…,” he said. “I am committed to making a change… to take our poly rhythms, words and way of speaking and state proudly: ‘This is Jamaican theatre’.”