The short play Blackbird, written and directed by Robert Noel, explores the lives of women living in T&T society and how they deal with unfortunate circumstances. He said working with the play has been a learning experience for him in many ways.
Noel said he was inspired to write the play after having a vision about a little girl. “She was sitting on some steps and she looked half despondent, half hopeful. You could tell she was very discouraged about her environment, but she was also very determined to change her circumstances. With that vision in my head, I one day heard Nina Simone’s Blackbird and it just brought the vision back and I started writing.”
He said one circumstance the women of Blackbird are forced to deal with is the death of a loved one. “Whether it’s death through accident or death through crime, death leaves a hole in the life of a person and sometimes in trying to fill that hole, we do all sorts of strange things. In the play, we see a mother who becomes so lost after her husband died suddenly, that it places her into a state of mind where she begins to neglect her two daughters, and it takes her years after to realize “oh my God, what have I done?” It’s about women trying to find themselves after shame, after disappointment, after regret, but it’s also about finding the footing or the place to stand after experiencing all these things, because at the end of the play, we see some form of catharsis and healing taking place, and the healing is what is important to me.”
Noel’s belief is that the ills that are breeding in the society right now stem from the problems that are taking place in the family. “If we fix what’s happening in the family, I think we are a step closer to fixing what happens in the community. If I have no real care or concern for my mother, father, brother, sister, it’s easier for me to shoot the neighbour, because if I don’t know what love is from the home, it’s difficult for me to really demonstrate any kind of love to the strangers on the street.”
He said his original intention with the play was to have a roving theatre troupe which would carry the play into different communities, but this has proved more difficult than he anticipated, due to a lack of facilities.
This is the third time the play has been produced, with the first two runs being at City Hall in Port of Spain in 2013 and May 2016. Noel said it was well received, with audience members saying it had a deep impact on them.
Noel said through the journey of the play, he has come to realize “there are a whole lot more hurting women out there than I thought and so I think the play is very relevant. I am glad to be the chosen vessel to bring these people together to take this play to communities in which there are hurting women that can maybe find some form of relief after seeing this play.”