Nicholai La Barrie
Inika Leigh Wright
>The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is where meals are prepared and is the means by which a family nurtures itself. But in Mustapha Maturas play Meetings, the unloved, unused kitchen is the window through which the effects of the 1980s economic boom in Trinidad can be best observed.
First performed some 27 years ago Meetings, now on at the Arcola, tells the tale of the disintegration of a young couple, Jean and Hugh, part of the indigenous, newly created prosperous elite only too eager to renounce their traditions and heritage in favour of the trappings of consumer capitalism and status symbols of American pop culture. But while their days and bank accounts are full their souls are empty.
Engulfed by nostalgia Hugh, played by Nicholai La Barrie, misses the Caribbean food he grew up with- the salt fish and ackee, the dumplings- while his headstrong wife, determined to shake off the shackles of Trini religion and customs and strides from business deal to deal, mainlining filter coffee and cigarettes.
To restore balance Hugh hires a servant girl Elsa (Davinia Anderson) to cook for them, and she starts the heart of the home beating again, a move that proves divisive because as Hugh’s palate is awakened, so his consciousness is raised and he realises all that they have turned their back on.
Inika Leigh Wright, is nothing short of phenomenal as the career driven wife, impassioned and domineering her ambition shines and her flawless execution of the wry and poignant script and coruscating performance wipes the floor with the lackadaisical La Barrie, and his less gripping attempts to reconnect with his history.
Dan Barnards direction is astute, and the use of the mirror on the far wall enabling the audience to see the actors faces even when the have their backs to the audience adds to the voyeuristic, fly on the wall nature of this domestic collapse. The cooking of real food and the subsequent mouthwatering smells filling the theatre was also another effective touch.
The play is split into two halves and, while the first half is compelling, the second half is turgid and the dramatic climax is easy to guess. The fleeting look at the racial schisms between Portuguese and black Trinidadians was also left under explored, but somehow even after all this time, Meetings, is still relevant and holds a mirror up to contemporary society; the emptiness inherent in modern work a day life, the need to embrace pluralism and multiculturalism, history, family and heritage and all that people sacrifice to get rich quick.