Cayman Islands Feature

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The Lowdown on Rundown

Rundown is a steamy Caymanian fish stew combining a potpourri of ingredients. A rundown is also a quick summary, and this enduringly popular show performed annually in October since 1991 puns on both definitions. The format is a series of skits, music, stand-up comedy, monologues, cabaret, dance, and impersonations—written from scratch each year by playwright-actor Dave Martins: a light-hearted, topical, satirical lampoon of daily Caymanian life, current events, politics, personalities, and nationalities. Caymanians call it their answer to The Daily Show and Colbert Report.

Martins started Rundown because he'd "seen topical shows in other Caribbean countries…and felt something similar would work here, but Cayman is very conservative and people said that would get me in hot water." After seeing caricatures of prominent people hanging in their offices, "I concluded that Caymanians were ready to laugh at themselves and wrote the first show. Some of the cast were very apprehensive in rehearsals, but it was a hit from day one." Every year provides fodder and inspiration aplenty, but the show is more gently mocking than controversial, and the targets of its barbs usually laugh along with everyone else.

The audience's nonstop guffawing may bemuse tourists. Martins explains, "A lot of the stuff I write…is very contextual and almost always local, so the lyrics generally make little sense to someone outside that frame." Recent skits spoofed the red tape involved in putting up a little backyard shed to play dominoes; interplay among a crowd of people lining up to get Caymanian Immigration Status (the rollover policy); a Jamaican trying to teach a Londoner to speak the J dialect; and a lost tourist trying to get directions from a group that includes a Cuban, a Barbadian, a Pakistani, a Jamaican, a Chinaman, and, of course, a Caymanian…"all of whom are incomprehensible to the visitor…. To understand it fully, you'd need to have lived here 10, 15 years." He doesn't Americanize or clean up the dialect, but that augments the honest authenticity. And much of the material, from frustrating daily interactions to bureaucratic blundering, transcends any cultural divide.

Updated: 12-2013

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