SPLINTERED at the VAULT Festival: A celebration of queer, Carribean culture in true carnivalesque spirit

“Who is to blame for the existence of homophobia in the Caribbean? Is it colonialism? Is it religion? Is it folklore?”

Alice Vilanculo, Chante Faucher, and Charlotte Dowding sure know how to throw a carnival. In stark contrast with the austere space of the Crypt at the VAULT Festival, SPLINTERED recreates a speck of the energy and quirkiness one might find in the streets of Kingston during the days before Ash Wednesday. Mixing cabaret acts with recordings of interviews with queer women from Trinidad and Tobago, the show balances joyful and critical tones. Written and directed by Emily Aboud, SPLINTERED is as much a celebration of a culture and a community, as it is an outcry raising awareness about the condition of queer women in the Caribbean. This is, as the trio reminds the audience, the real meaning of carnival: a time of celebration through satire, which tries to undermine a problematic and oppressive structure.

Without following a precise structure, the show combines the real and fictional stories of queer Caribbean women through short sketches, recorded and lip-synched interviews, dances, and extremely funny games. There’s Ruby, a girl who struggles to come out to her mother and who realises that coming out is only the beginning of a series of confessions and lies. There’s the unrequited love Shenise feels for Serine. There’s the hilarious take on Chicago’s Cell Block Tango, re-imagined as “Relatable Gay Content” to tell the stories of women realizing they are queer. There are the voices of anonymous people denouncing the expressed and latent homophobia which is still widespread in the Caribbean.

As the energetic trio points out at the end, it is amazing that this topic is being talked about and presented on stage. Yet it is a shame that the people represented in the show cannot be part of the audience, as showing SPLINTERED in the Caribbean would still be problematic, if not dangerous.  

Who is to blame for the existence of homophobia in the Caribbean? Is it colonialism? Is it religion? Is it folklore? SPLINTERED leaves these questions unanswered, mocking colonialism, religion, and folklore in a powerful and smart way without directly pointing the finger against a particular cause or specific institution. Oppression and pain are firmly acknowledged and fought against laugh after laugh, dance after dance, with true carnivalesque spirit.

SPLINTERED is on at The vaults, on Leake Street, until 16th February.

Photo Credit: Myah Jeffers

Alberto Tondello arrived in the UK in 2010 to undertake his studies in English Literature. He graduated from Queen Mary, University of London in 2013, and was awarded his MA from Oxford University in 2014 with a comparative project on Samuel Beckett and Italo Calvino. After teaching English in Switzerland for three years, Alberto is back in the UK to work on James Joyce and inanimate matter at UCL.

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