Cumper's Game goes to the US

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Monday, October 15, 2018

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The Key Game, a play looking at the demolition of a psychiatric hospital in Jamaica during the 1990s, has been revived for an 11-day run at New Perspectives Studio in Manhattan, New York.

Written by British-Jamaican playwright Pat Cumper, The Key Game opened in London in 2004 to strong reviews. Its American premiere takes place on October 17 and is produced by Banana Boat Productions, a 20-year-old New York company run by Jamaican Merlina Rich.

The Key Game focuses on three inmates at the psychiatric facility, and their caregiver. With the hospital's closure imminent, the inmates ponder their future in unfamiliar surroundings, while the caregiver considers his next professional move.

Because the hospital is being demolished to construct a high-end apartment complex, Rich said The Key Game also addresses regentrification, a popular real estate practice where wealthy people purchase homes in economically challenged communities and transform them into trendy locations.

“Gentrification is necessarily a controversial topic. While life may continually move forward over time, it doesn't always move with grace and empathy. Gentrification may appear to have some obvious benefits, but when old neighbourhoods are too rapidly modified without enough concern for long-term residents, it will not be seen as progress, but rather as punishment for being poor,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

James Foster Jr, Leajato Amara Robinson, Jonathan Michaelson Swain and Marc Webster comprise the cast of The Key Game which Rich discovered some years ago.

“I first came across the play in a book titled Inna Yardie. I read the synopsis and was immediately drawn to the characters and their situations. So, I got in touch with Ms Cumper in London and asked her for permission to do a reading of the play in New York City,” Rich recalled. “She was excited to hear this and gave me the OK. As it turned out, after reading the play a second time, I was driven instead to do a full staged production in order to show in greater detail the range of characters, their impact on each other, their immediate environment, and their difficulty battling with an uncaring bureaucracy.”

Pat Cumper was born in Kingston to a Jamaican mother and British father. Her mother, Gloria Compton, studied law at Cambridge University during World War II and helped formulate the Bastard Act in Jamaica in November 1976. Cumper's 1998 book, One Bright Child, acknowledges Compton's accomplishments as well as the challenges her parents faced as a bi-racial couple in post-war Britain.

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