‘Flambeaux’ Brings Caribbean History to Stage 

“Flambeaux” is a Caribbean musical set in 19th century colonial Trinidad. It tells the stories of the residents of Homer Yard, a tenement in the city of Port of Spain.

Homer Yard is haunted by the death of Sello, a celebrated stick-fighter killed after a fight during carnival festivities. Sello’s death sparks tensions with colonial authorities, who decide to outlaw the celebrations of Canboulay, the precursor of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. Traditions including stick fighting, lighting of Flambeaux (flaming torches) and the playing of drums were forbidden.

“Flambeaux” gives audiences a look into a critical time in Trinidad’s history when efforts by the colonial British government to suppress Canboulay traditions and celebrations were successfully resisted during the Canboulay Riots.

Flambeaux were used by Caribbean people in the 1800s to see in the dark before lamps and electricity. After the abolition of slavery, lighting the torches became an integral part of the annual emancipation commemoration. The descendants of slaves fought for their right to light the flambeaux, which represented the struggles of African people.

Through calypso music, drums and dance, the musical presents the struggle between people of different races and social classes for relevance, identity and belonging.

Reporter Melissa Noel attended a recent performance at The Poet’s Den Gallery and Theater in Harlem.

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