Social shades of 1950s Jamaica

Legend of Bella Rosa. How do you turn a great theatre script into a full theatre production?

Play Synopsis: Set amidst the upheaval of 1950s colonial Jamaica. A headstrong young socialite, in love with her downtown sweetheart battles her prejudiced family. These are the turbulent days before Independence.


I was transported to Jamaica yesterday afternoon. It was 1955. I went to a reading of the play ‘The Legend of Bella Rosa’, a comedy by Elizabeth Uter.

I haven’t been to a play reading for a while. I had no idea of what the script was about so, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I entered the studio at The Actor’s Centre I saw 15 people seated in a semi-circle facing the audience with script in hand. As I took my seat, I thought to myself if this play is not very good I’m in for a long afternoon.

The gentleman reading the stage direction opened the play. The scene was set and I was transported.

The words jumped out of the script as the actors read and their characters came alive. Set in Jamaica the play had me giggling at the colourful elaborate use of the English language mixed with patois. The humanity of the characters actions resonated with my own emotions. On occasion I felt the compulsion to laugh rather than kiss my teeth at the portrayal of ludicrous ignorance of ‘Caribbean ‘West Indian’ high society’ who pride themselves on sophistication, but can often use the most basic concepts of shade and hair type to demean others to validate their status.

The play was like a red onion. Lots of layers, depth of flavour, sharp enough to have a distinctive taste, but sweet enough to be part of a bigger salad. I found myself laughing and shaking my head at the same time due to the comic timing, poignancy of the message but the honest and openness and non judgmental portrayal of the insight through the variety of the characters voices.

The characters were comical but not caricature and I recognised them and their legacy in the people I know and love. A love story with a new spice and a different twist.

So vividly written I could almost smell and taste the scenes. When the play was finished my belly was full.

I would love to see the play in full production, set, stage, costumes; the works. I can even see it as a film. It would be great to see another small island story on the big stage or screen.