Jun 15, 2020 News
By Harold A. Bascom
I met Parry Bancroft-Wallerson, after having left Georgetown City, for Linden, Upper Demerara River, back in 1981. I left to become a graphic arts teacher at the Christianburg Wismar Multilateral School on Blue Berry Hill, Christianburg. Then, I was working on the very first draft of my first novel, “Apata: The Story of a Reluctant Criminal.” It was also at that point that I started writing plays. I began with skits for second-form students and directed them for production in the school’s auditorium. Encouraged by the success of my short pieces, I decided on writing my very first full-length play that became, “The Butterline,” which led me to meet the cream of Linden’s drama-crop. Among them were ‘Liz’ Cromwell, Jeffrey Trotman, Grace Chapman, Catherine Moseley, Richard Carter, Aubrey Reid, and quite a few others. And, of course, there was Parry Bancroft-Wallerson.
“The Butterline”, in which Parry played “Tolme”, one of the lead roles, is based on Guyana’s economic crisis of the early eighties that saw the nation forming lines to get the most basic of foodstuff. It was a time when the “Guyline” was King and people either praised or vilified “Burnham”. A memorable time. In the plot, Tolme loves his wife Shirley as much as she loves him. He, however, is unable to cater to her intimate needs and hides behind radical, political rhetoric. She, consumed with sexual need, finds herself drawn to Walter, the supermarket worker who falls heavily for her. He, however, finds that Shirley, for whatever reasons, continues to employ subterfuge to thwart his every attempt to “bed” her. The play rises to the point where Walter will not be denied “having” Tolme’s wife, and (presumably) fulfills this need. The play climaxes with Shirley returning home all disheveled as though she has been involved in a tussle. Her husband is aghast:
TOLME: Shirley! What happened to you?
SHIRLEY: (Weeping and blustery) The butter line, Tolme! They almost kill me in the butter line! … Was a long line, Tolme! A fat line, Tolme! A cruel line! …
After “The Butterline”, Parry Bancroft-Wallerson, who played Tolme, Catherine Moseley, who played Shirley, and Richard Carter, who played Walter, became popular, Linden-wide.
Years later, Parry Bancroft-Wallerson migrated to the USA. Eventually, I too left for America. In our first meeting at his Queens, New York home, he said laughingly to me, “Bai? Me walking along Church Avenue one day, and somebody start calling out: ‘De Butterline! De Butterline!’” We laughed. He was happy that someone did not forget him as a Linden-based playwright-dramatist and theatrical producer; and I was happy that my first play still struck a memorable chord.
But there is much more to Parry Bancroft-Wallerson. He’s also an artist-painter and a Guyanese-culture aficionado who, in the basement of his Queens New York home, records folk songs, copies them onto CDs, and gives them to Guyanese in the Diaspora to do what he can, to preserve our disappearing Guyanese culture.
Parry, after having been in New York for over twenty-five years, eventually returned on a visit to Guyana to reconnect with old friends. (And when he did, he was “twangless.” His “damn” was still “damn” instead of “dame”; and his “holiday” was still “holiday” instead of “halladay.”) He spoke with a couple of local media-producers on Guyanese culture; he expounded on our folklore; and in the end, he was surprised at their excitement to get him on local radio and TV, though it was not to be.
You may be thinking aloud: ‘Why were local producers hoping to have a “Comebackee” speak about Guyanese folklore on air?’I too was intrigued, so, I said to him, “Parry, what was it you were chatting with these media producers about, that captivated them so?”
He laughed and said, “At one point, I found myself explaining the difference between a Old Higue’ and a ‘Firerass’ to them.”
I said, “Parry, I myself don’t know the difference?”
He chuckled. “De Old Higue is the woman and the Firerass is the man.”
Parry Bancroft-Wallerson is also an excellent artist-painter whose work I first became aware of, after seeing his unique semi-abstract depiction of the Kaieteur Falls at a group exhibition of Linden artists on the first floor of the Guyana museum. This was many years before I met him as a dramatist in Linden. His take of our famous falls was one I had never seen before; the innovative rendition was genius. …
But why am I rambling about whoever this ‘Parry Bancroft-Wallerson’ man is? To understand, I invite you to eavesdrop on the following phone conversation between Parry and me; he, from Brooklyn, New York; me from Loganville, Georgia:
ME: Parry, how old are you now?
PARRY: Bai, I is 84; going be 85 early next year.
ME: Parry, you ever consider writing your autobiography?
PARRY: Yes, man, but lately I feeling so tired.
ME: Parry, man, I understand. I tend to feel tired to’ … but is important that you leave-back something to be remembered for, something like an autobiography. You did so much creative work as a Guyanese—for Guyanese. It would be a sin that you should pass with no record of your creative contribution to Guyanese culture.
PARRY: Man… once you’ all give me a good send-off.
ME: A good funeral is not enough for a Guyanese like you. Hear, Parry, please find the strength and time to write down some autobiographical bits, like which part of Berbice you were born and stuff like that; then send it to me. I will write about you. As a matter of fact, I’m currently writing a Guyanese novel and I’m going to put you inside as a real-life character.
PARRY: That would be nice, man.
ME: Don’t worry, Parry. I must do this for you. We have to do things like this for one another. Nobody in Guyana is likely to do it for us. We are, after all, artists and writers, and in Guyana, nobody cares for such people.
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