Jamaican Canadian actress back on stage this weekend
Yvette Martin – Her life is a play that doesn’t have an end yet
By Stephen Weir for Caribbean Camera
If you pulled back the drapes at many Toronto events, you would find 52-year old Yvette Martin pulling the strings, firing up the musicians and cueing the talent. This weekend, for the first time in many years, the Jamaican Canadian actress is going to be on this side of the curtain joking about running from death!
Ms. Martin has so many titles. Actress, Artistic Director, Writer, Stage Manager, Arts Educator, Forum Theatre Specialist and well, the list goes on from there. She has been actively working in the Arts & Entertainment Sector here in Toronto for the past 35 years. Although Yvette has worked with various cultural groups and mainstream entertainment projects, she always credits the Black & Caribbean Theatres that laid the foundation for her successes.
This weekend she is taking to the boards starring in a two act play that she also wrote and directs at the Al Green Theatre (SPADINA and BLOOR) in downtown Toronto. When Death Come Run is a Caribbean-style comedy mystery starring an all-Caribbean Canadian cast of John Phillips, David Smith, Kevin Sinclair, Jason Crooks Carla Boutwell and Luther Hansraj.
The Caribbean Camera attended a cast rehearsal of the play at a rehearsal space in the basement of the Yorkdale shopping centre! Six of the actors stayed around after the run-through to pose for pictures for the Camera!
The play is written from a Jamaican perspective, despite the part-patois title of the play,When Death Come Run is aimed at a general English-speaking audience. “ We Caribbean people look at death differently than most Canadians,” said Ms Martin. “ I wrote this play – When Death Come Run - to give people a good time at the theatre, I didn’t want to make it serious. But, it is something we all face and really it is painful talk. We Caribbean use humour and laughter to mask what approaches.”
“I was born in Kingston and my parents were from Portland,” she told the Camera.
“ I still have cousins in Jamaica and I still have a sense of what is was like to grow up there. A lot of those fables that I heard as a kid, are now blended stories inside my head. My grandmother was a great storyteller, and that is something I also live by. My life is a story but I don’t put an end on it.”
Set in the rainy Parish of Portland, Jamaica in the early 1970’s, the play, a comedic mystery focuses on two brothers in their late 60’s, Joshua Jenkins, the local tailor (John Phillips) and his brother Jerimiah Jenkins, the local grave digger and part time medicine man (David Smith) and their extended dysfunctional family as they all try to come to terms with their own daemons as the small village is faced with a rash of unexplained death. The Jenkins family is long standing and well respected in a small Jamaican village, but when their alcoholic niece comes to visit, their status could change.
“With Caribbean Theatre, you can take the liberty of making everything more exaggerated. This is story telling that is larger than life,” she continued. “ Our audience is more participatory, they identify with the characters on stage and I enjoy that. When audiences can see themselves inside the story, I know we have won -- Big Time .”
Her 60 plus stage acting credits include parts in Playboy of the West Indies, Dear Pastor, Calabash Alley and Gi Mi Life. Yvette Martin has over 25 writing credits to her name. Her full-length plays include Queen For A Day (Vancouver), Trading Places(Toronto) & Tonight (Toronto) & her critically acclaimed play "Ova Mi Dead Body" (Toronto) that she wrote and directed in 2003.
As for When Death Come Run, she says that the self-financed play has just a brief weekend run to test how it is received. “This is about creating work for our actors, writing stories for our community and making a point. What I would like to do is to take this play all across the GTA and play not just for Caribbean theatres.”