Shortly after H. Lavity Stoutt became the Virgin Islands’ first chief minister in 1967, protestors confronted him over an exclusive development planned for Road Town, according to a new play about his life.
“We want back Wickhams Cay,” the protestors chanted in the theatrical presentation “Country Man Comes to Town: Keep the Vision Moving.”
The show — which drew more than 200 people to the community college that now bears Mr. Stoutt’s name — debuted Monday as part of the government’s celebration of the annual public holiday marking his birthday.
The plot centred on the leader’s life, from his youth to his 38 consecutive years as First District representative.
Several acts were divided by cultural performances, including songs, dances, music from the Joyce Samuel Primary School fungi band, and a rendition of the Mariah Carey hit “Hero” by Miss BVI 2015 Sasha Wintz.
But first, the evening kicked off with Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley reciting a poem titled, “Where there is No Vision.” After that, the H. Lavity Stoutt Commemorative Choir sang “Write the Vision.”Then the curtain rose and the audience was taken back in time.
In the first scene — which was set at Mr. Stoutt’s birthplace, Long Bay — actor Caleb Stoutt played the leader in his childhood days as his mother boasted of his good behaviour in the presence of a visitor. “He will grow up to be a great man,” she said. “He well mannered. So I does pray every day that he fulfill that calling.”
In a later scene set in Carrot Bay, the young man was warned by his mother and cousin to be a “good leader” and to ensure he pays attention to his academic goals.
He also got some advice from a relative who spoke in a local creole that had the audience laughing out loud. “Boy, you going town; you can’t make we country people look shame,” the relative warned.
Later in the play, actor Melvin Stoutt depicted Mr. Stoutt as an adult following his ambitions to the highest elected office in the territory. One such scene depicted a public meeting where the politician made his case to the electorate.
It was here that the play’s title took full effect as he bantered with a group of voters, one of whom advised, “Town people don’t like country people.” The play climaxed around the time that Mr. Stoutt became the territory’s first chief minister.
Shortly thereafter, he faced protestors upset over the government’s agreement with a British developer who planned to reclaim and develop Wickhams Cay as an exclusive enclave. “I promise all of you that I will seek the British government’s assistance so that I can get this matter resolved,” Mr. Stoutt told the protestors. “I guarantee you that this will take place.”
He then staunchly denied their allegations against him. “I did not sign that lease,” he shouted. The group left chanting, “Ah say we want back Wickhams Cay, and we gon tek back Wickhams Cay.” They were led by a particularly boisterous protestor played by Janice Stoutt, the writer and director of the play.
The protestors, of course, got their wish: The planned Wickhams Cay development was eventually scuttled, as was a related project that would have taken up most of Anegada.