National Library to honour celebrated novelist with play
“The future of drama in Guyana has got a solid foundation once again.”
This assertion was made by veteran journalist and actor Ron Robinson yesterday as he, among others, revealed ambitious plans to stage a local version of ‘To Sir, With Love’.
Written by Guyanese author, Edward Ricardo (E.R.) Braithwaite, the semi-autobiographical novel ‘To Sir, With Love’ was made into a film starring Sidney Poitier in 1967, but will now take on a more local tone when it is staged at the National Cultural Centre on Monday, August 27.
As a playwright, Ms. Mosa Telford was able to capture a true Guyanese adaptation of the book, which according to Robinson, could see her probably becoming the “Guyanese Derek Walcott” in years to come.
“Mosa did some brilliant work…she has done a beautiful job in capturing the mood and tone of the novel. The movie was a base for her, but she has written a truly Guyanese version,” Robinson boasted.
The play, which is being directed by Robinson, will see another veteran actor, Henry Rodney, playing the head teacher and Leon Cummings will play ‘Sir’ while a number of young actors will play the role of the students.
“They have been so enthusiastic that I have found it a joy to direct this group,” Robinson said even as he noted that an even greater reason for them to perform brilliantly is the fact that the performance will be graced by the presence of E. R. Braithwaite. It will be preluded by a tribute from the renowned actor Sidney Poitier.
Choosing Braithwaite’s novel as the basis for the play came as part of the National Library’s celebration of its centenary in 2009.
According to Coordinator of Literacy Activities at the National Library, Margaret Eastman, “we decided that we would use the next five to 10 years to promote local writers.”
The initiative started with the Library looking at folklore, with performances being held at the Theatre Guild and City Hall.
“We began to look at other ways to promote local authors and we came up with the idea to look at our history,” Eastman revealed.
It was at this point that the Library requested that Telford put Guyana’s history into drama, and this was staged last year. Last year, too, the Library began to look more closely at the literary work of E. R. Braithwaite, which resulted in a decision to stage the play.
The play, according to Chairman of the Library, Petamber Persaud, will serve as “an extraordinary moment, where we will be able to celebrate with one of our writers.
We will be able to celebrate this moment because he is still with us; he is still alive…he has nonetheless created a legacy that will live on and on through his novel.”
Chief Librarian, Ms. Gillian Thompson, urged that persons should come out in their numbers to show support for the play which she described as “really a genuine Guyanese creation.”
According to Thompson, the National Library operates on a premise that much can be learned through the arts. She added too that “in this particular case some of the very challenges being faced by teachers in our schools today will be highlighted, and how those challenges can be successfully overcome.”
As the lead institution for literacy in Guyana, Thompson said that the entity hopes to engage the public in many different and creative ways in order to encourage wide use of its facilities. The National Library currently has branches in Linden, New Amsterdam, Corriverton, Ruimveldt and Bagotville, as well as many centres in the various regions.