News Releases

Bitter Cassava thrills audiences at the UWI Learning Resource Centre

For Release Upon Receipt - April 28, 2008

St. Augustine

The University of the West Indies, (UWI) Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA) delighted audiences with the theatrical production, Bitter Cassava, staged from Friday 28th March to Sunday 6th April, 2008 at the UWI Learning Resource Centre (LRC).

Written in 1979 by Lester Efebo Wilkinson, Bitter Cassava is a well crafted full length play with music and dance. It was first produced in November 1979 for the Folk Theatre Festival component of the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition. Interpreting the play for local audiences was director Louis McWilliams, Lecturer at The University of the West Indies, who has been an admirer of Lester Wilkinson since 1980. According to McWilliams “Bitter Cassava highlights many aspects of life, such as the notions of revenge, love, superstition, placing particular emphasis on family life and how often children suffer from adult indiscretion.”

The DCFA’s recent staging of Bitter Cassava pleased audiences with a blend of refreshing voices and rhythms in sharp contrast with the seriousness of the tale being told. The setting is simple: a little house remains the center of the action throughout the play and appears to be representative of a life cycle. It knows birth as well as death, joy as well as sorrow; it echoes the challenges of those who pass through its walls. Beauty is reflected in the faces, voices, dance and humor of the village women, who, like mother hens, bend their wings around the ‘village ram’ Sam, who has made the decision to ‘eat, drink and be merry’, and is oblivious to the self-sacrificing Justina who adores the ground that he walks on. Pa Cefus, the village eye witness, is the one who keeps the plot together. Through him, we identify Sam’s weaknesses, and obtain an eyewitness account of the events as they unfold over the thirteen-year period.

Folklore intertwines with reality in the interplay between the creatures of the night and their unsuspecting victims. Dramatic effect is heightened through the use of appropriate music which creates the atmosphere necessary for the various scenes. The notes are enthused with traditional and calypso pieces. While there were elements of classical theatre, Bitter Cassava’s folkloric representation is rich as a genre unto itself. Bitter Cassava’s message is as important today as three decades ago: what goes around does indeed come around!

Bitter Cassava will again be staged in May, 2008, date to be announced. For further information please contact DCFA at 662-2002 Ext. 3791/3791/2510.


The UWI Department for Creative and Festival Arts, formerly the Centre for Creative and Festival Arts (CCFA) is one of two such centres in the University system, the other being at Mona, Jamaica. Since its establishment in 1986, the DCFA has grown to offer programmes at four levels: certificate, degree, occasional and postgraduate. Undergraduate degrees are offered in Theatre Arts, Musical Arts, Visual Arts and Carnival Arts. At the postgraduate level, the DCFA offers an Arts and Cultural Enterprise Management (ACEM) programme. The DCFA’s outreach arm, Arts-in-Action, uses theatre intervention strategies in its work in schools, communities and corporations.