Clairmonte Taitt Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the Earl Warner Foundation. (Barbados)

Clairmonte Taitt Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the Earl Warner Foundation. (Barbados) .

Lifetime Achievement Award winner Clairmonte Taitt (left) accepting his plaque from Zara Warner.
Lifetime Achievement Award winner Clairmonte Taitt (left) accepting his plaque from Zara Warner.

Hats off to Taitt, Hippolyte

Nation News– Barbados.  – By Ricky Jordan February 03, 2014

OUTSTANDING CARIBBEAN THEATRE practitioners Clairmonte Taitt and Kendel Hippolyte are the new Earl Warner Trust’s Lifetime Achievement Awards recipients.

Taitt, 81, born in Guyana to a Barbadian father and Guyanese mother, and St Lucian Hippolyte, 61, were hailed by members of the Trust and a small audience at the Walcott Warner Theatre of the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination on Saturday night as versatile artistes from whom ensuing generations had much to learn. 

Taitt, an actor, director, vocalist, violinist and broadcaster, was honoured on the night through a display of photographs depicting his life from the 1930s in what was then British Guiana to his Shakespearean roles in the 1950s right up to March 2000, when he played a leading role in Animal Farm with the Cave Hill Theatre Workshop.

Describing him as “a continental son”, Zara Warner, a daughter of Earl Warner, cited Taitt’s work with the Philharmonic Orchestra in Guyana as a prize-winning tenor and choirmaster, and as a BBC-trained broadcaster with Radio Demerara, Radio St Lucia as programme director, and the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation as announcer/producer.

“His career in drama, spanning some 60 years, has been as wide-ranging as his careers in music and broadcasting . . . . In Barbados, in a period that spanned three decades, Clairmonte worked extensively with Earl Warner, acting in several outstanding plays he directed: Flambeau Rock, Joe Turner’s Come And Gone, Franklin, Your Handsome Captain, ManTalk, FatPork: Loss Of Innocence,” Warner read.

Taitt received a standing ovation after going onstage to receive his award.

Hippolyte, in giving the night’s lecture, posed a few questions on Caribbean theatre, noting that his peers, including Earl Warner, believed their work would have helped to create a society of greater justice and equality, but asking why this did not happen and what were the implications for today’s theatre activists.

“I hope you don’t think I’m setting up these questions as a kind of cute rhetorical device and that by the end of this one-sided dialogue, I will give you the answers. I don’t have them,” he told his audience which included the trust’s chairman

David Neilands, drama tutor Amanda Cumberbatch and several theatre practitioners.

Hippolyte said while theatre was society’s ultimate mirror, it had not succeeded in bringing that new just society into being because the Caribbean had stopped talking to itself about who its citizens were, what they wanted to be, and what kind of socio-economic framework they wanted to create.

He said after his generation had joined that dialogue about the direction of Caribbean society in the 1970s when Pan Africanism and Rastafari were dominant, there was a “formidable backlash within countries whose socio-economic systems had been shaken to the core”, while leftist ideology had weakened, and the vocabulary in which capitalist societies had been critiqued had disappeared.

“There was the tragedy of Grenada, the heart shock of Walter Rodney’s assassination. [Ronald] Reagan was elected and re-elected, so was [Margaret] Thatcher.

All these are elements of an explanation but not the whole of it,” Hippolyte said.

“So what’s missing? Why do I have such a strong sense of a gap, a miscuing in this gradually developing dialogue between theatre and society?” he asked, noting that plays like Ti-Jean And His Brothers and Moon On A Rainbow Shawl had been examples of the societal mirror and had partially summed up the vision of Caribbean people.

Asking, therefore, where were today’s plays and productions that should be in dialogue with the sense of Caribbean disappointment and drift “after the promise of a new society [had] fizzled out”, Hippolyte admitted: “My gut feeling is that it has to do with our Mother, Natura, the earth. My gut feeling tells me that if we pay attention to her, we will find ourselves inevitably struggling to create that society of justice and equality that Caribbean society and theatre dialogued about in the generations of Walcott and Warner.”

The lecturer in drama and theatre arts, poet of international standing, playwright and director concluded that Caribbean theatre should listen to conversations such as the various Occupy Wall Street protests and the 2012 hunger strike by Dr Wayne Kublalsingh to protest a planned highway through an environmentally sensitive region in Trinidad.

“If it [Caribbean theatre] listens, it may hear the exact cue that it needs to bring its earlier conversation . . . into the dialogue about who we are and where we should be going,” Hippolyte said.

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  • Jon the carpenter :- D  On 03/19/2014 at 6:32 am

    Way to go Clairmonte!!! (From the Great White North…Canada) I can see your brother Horace smiling ear to ear :- D

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