||The Joseph Jones Caribbean Plays Collection consists of seventeen mimeographed
one-act typescripts by eleven playwrights. The plays are arranged alphabetically
author in a single series, Plays, circa 1950s-1960s. Names of authors are listed
they are given on the title pages in the collection.
||All the plays appeared in Caribbean Plays, a
publication of the University College of the West Indies' Department of Extra-Mural
Studies in Kingston, Jamaica. The Extra-Mural Studies Department was dedicated
adult education. None of the plays is dated, but from publication dates given
secondary sources, it is assumed that these playwrights attended writing workshops
during the 1950s and 1960s.
||Though the manuscripts here represent non-canon authors, some were well known as
poets, playwrights, and educators in the West Indies, the United States, and the
United Kingdom. Authors include A. N. Forde, Errol Hill, Slade Hopkinson (who
used the name Abdur-Rahman Slade Hopkinson), Cicely Howland (who is better known
the name Cicely Waite-Smith), Errol John, and Roderick Walcott, Derek Walcott's
twin. Less is known about Osborne Ashby, J. S. Barker, Veronica Fonrose, Lloyd
and Wilfred Redhead, all of whom are represented in this collection.
||Errol Hill earned his M.F.A. and D.F.A. at the Yale School of Drama before returning
to his native Trinidad where he was involved in drama circles throughout the West
Indies and headed the Department of Extra-Mural Studies of the University College
the West Indies. Hill's Strictly Matrimony, one of
the highlights of this collection, satirizes British feminism's attempt to
legitimize common-law marriages in the West Indies. Hill's Broken Melody deviates from the typical Caribbean setting and centers
on a pair of sisters in post–World War II America or England.
||Most of the plays share a Caribbean setting, the use of dialect in dialogue, and a
comic tone. They typically center on the black communities in the Caribbean, though
British or French imperial presence is a demonstrable concern. The French influence
is felt linguistically when "oui" intersperses with local dialect. A native man
adopts an American accent, name, and past to woo a local girl in Osborne Ashby's
Sailors Ashore. His deceit is revealed and, at
play's end, the reader expects her to return to her authentic ex-boyfriend. A.
Forde, whose poetry and stories were published in Island
Voices: Stories from the West Indies and Caribbean Voices, departs from the collection's generally comic tone to
explore racial resentment in the civil service in The Passing
||Many authors poke fun at the superstition of the islanders. In Veronica Fonrose's
The Evil Spirit, the women of the household are
presented as silly, superstitious creatures who need the sensible father-figure
ground them. Yet it is the husband who is nearly defrauded by a charlatan who
commune with spirits in Wilfred Redhead's Three Comic
Sketches. Despite this general mistrust of native spiritual customs,
biblical images and themes are appropriated and used in plays like A Flight of Sparrows and The
Tout. Slade Hopkinson's The Onliest Fisherman
incorporates elements of Greek drama.