by Dr Neals J Chitan
I have always smiled at Frankie’s line, played by Richard Beadle, “Well if ah fed up, ah fed up! What you want me to say?” in the GBN commercial for the upcoming Heritage Theatre production “Patient Zero.”
And as I sat in the Grenada Trade Centre, transformed into the likes of a state of the art theatre, I again smiled, chuckled but became rather sombre, if not tearful, as the cast took me back on an emotional journey which I had personally experienced for the past months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As an international social skill consultant and interventionist, I had just returned to Grenada for only a few months when the Covid-19 monster began creeping into my reacquainting Caribbean living. Little did I know that I was going to be personally and intimately impacted when my wife of 35 years, who went back to our home in Toronto to tie up some loose ends, got stuck there when our borders closed. I too, despite my professional training was in the midst of an ocean of loss of companionship and sadness when I was asked to serve on a team of psychosocial advisors to help chart the psychosocial road map for Grenada during and after the pandemic. That appointment not only gave me the opportunity to plan and create, but to professionally intervene and bring hope and guidance to over fifty families across the nation while also being a form of self-therapy for me as the Covid-19 monster raged on.
And now, sitting in the 11th row of a transformed theatre, I am reliving the sad, hurt, powerless, lonely and depressed experiences and issues I had dealt and still dealing with in the homes of our nation. However, the only difference this time around was the comfort of having my wife at my side and periodically stretching over the 6 feet of physical distancing to hold her sanitised hand as we experience “Patient Zero” together.
Let me first comment on the content of the script, and take my hat off to Christopher DeRiggs, a veteran playwright, who has vividly captured the mechanical and psychological framework of the prevailing Covid-19 mindset. Together with “celebrity” producer Neila Ettienne, they were able to simultaneously bring laughter and tears to their audience, enveloping them into a rather poignant experience. There were times when despite how funny a line was, the audience was unable to bring out the laughter from their bellies, only squeezing a little muffled chuckle out as if currently re-experiencing the pain from the scene.
What pain you ask? The emotional pain and loss of Frankie Franklyn skilfully played by Richard Beadle, an avid businessman/lawyer/father/husband and son as he sees his business plan and hopes totally shattered as Covid-19 demolishes a one-of-a-lifetime business opportunity that would “set him up for life.” The pain of his wife Victoria, a sociology professor, meticulously played by Dale Bhola, as she juggles the 4-dimensional pain. The pain of possibly losing her job, her husband failed business plan, the pain of LuLu, their daughter played by Rose Bhagwan, being at home from school. The pain of her father-in-law Basil profoundly played by Robert Whyte, as he reminisces on the death of his wife Muzzie, the insensitivity of his son Frankie, his Covid-19 infection and eventual death. No wonder, the audience could not laugh at times!! The pain was real!! A family inflicted by the emotional pain of Covid-19.
Patient Zero brought back to my mind issues that have caused: domestic violence, sexual assaults, child abuse, financial distress, depression, loneliness, suicide ideation and suicide across our nation, region and world in this Covid-19 era, which we need to keep addressing.
There is no doubt that the issues presented in this production is real to life! However, it was hopeful to know that there was a family member in the person of Victoria who possessed the professional skills of a Sociologist to help piece together the emotional puzzle and hold them together, even in the worst of times.
As I travel the length and breath of Grenada responding to calls, my heart cries for those who do not have the social skills, the accommodation, the finances, the tolerance and relationship to sustain their family unit during these tough times, as in the “Patient Zero” production. These I call the unheard “Client Zero” and committed to help!
Dr Neals Chitan is an International Social Skill Consultant and Crime Reduction Specialist who holds a PhD in Social and Behavioural Sciences and currently works in Grenada. He is the President/Founder of Motiv-8 For Change International a Toronto-based Social Skill Agency and can be reached from North America at 647-692-6330 and locally 473-416-8377 or at [email protected]