Camille Davis - Shy girl steals the spotlight
Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
Camille Davis continues to provide a subject lesson in stage acting, turning the art of living truthfully into imaginary circumstances. The simplest, yet most powerful pleasure of watching theatre is its immediacy, and Davis allows us to witness her joys, heartbreak, pain, and relief every step of the way.
Davis has not been around theatre for a very long time, but she most certainly has done enough already to signal that she is blessed with a special talent, and the Jamaican audience just loves seeing her perform onstage.
She has given life to so many characters in Jamaican theatre but for many her name is still unfamiliar. From light comedies to edgy, ambitious dramas, life hasn't been the same for Davis since she debuted in Woody's Last Stand, a 2004 play in which she caught the attention of her many admirers. When Davis again walked into an audition at Centerstage in 2004, she believed in a dream and possessed an innate determination that was enough to gain her another opportunity at stage acting and her first lead role as Dimples in Patrick Brown's Vibes.
"I didn't go to school for it. My friend, Donisha Prendergast, was in theatre at the time and she encouraged me to become involved in it. I am still in awe of what I am doing because when I was younger, I didn't talk much. I would be in a room and you wouldn't even know that I am there. I just felt at the time that no one would be interested in what I had to say," Davis said.
When Davis started in theatre, she had no formal training; she hails from the rural community of Ketto in Westmoreland and was raised by her grandmother in a sheltered environment. The self-proclaimed shy girl came to the big city with hopes of a higher education, and never dreamt of being in the spotlight. "I have grown to realise that I indeed have a voice. People do want to hear what I have to say and they enjoy listening to me," Davis said.
Soon after, she was bitten by the acting bug and has since played the lead or significant roles in several plays, in addition to commercials and radio dramas.
Her typical day is quite hectic, balancing her family and her career. Davis believes in taking one day at a time so you do not get overwhelmed. It also takes some effort to get into character for her performances, as some characters are more in-depth than others. "It is a lot of work as it takes so much of your mental space. It is the depth of the character that determines the process that you go through in preparing for a performance. We have rehearsals every day so it is much more than you see on television or on stage," she said. Davis hopes one day to walk the red carpet in Hollywood and dreams of being the first Jamaican to make a huge mark in film.
Despite her successes in a business that can prove hard to break into, Davis has remained resolute to in her beliefs and tries to maintain a certain level of privacy and diplomacy in her everyday life. According to Davis, many people do not think about their family values until a crisis arises that forces them to make decisions that may go against their beliefs.
She said the only way to earn and keep someone's respect is to first show them respect yourself. "My values come from how I was raised. I put God first and foremost in everything that I do. I am not disheartened by life's failures because I have the fear of God in me. Some things I genuinely cannot do because my conscience does not allow me. My values, I realise, is an asset because it affirms my character and how I live in my everyday life," Davis said.
She also sees herself as a private person and seemingly does a good job of balancing her professional and personal life. "I don't believe in having to air everything out to the world. Apart from your immediate family, who really cares?" Davis said. "As much as they will love your talent, you have to be comfortable with who you are. Certain things you cannot hide but ... that doesn't mean you should throw your personal life out to the public," she added.
She believes in working hard and avoiding complacency or mediocrity because there is always much more to learn and achieve. "I see myself doing more than Jamaican theatre. I want more and I do not want to be just here. I want to do more than what has already been done and create a change, going outside of the standard that has already been set," she said.
Her latest performance can be seen in Patrick Brown's Funny Kind a Love. The four-hander features Camille Davis as Jo, Glen 'Titus' Campbell as Buck, Courtney Wilson as Carlisle and Sharee Elise (who alternates with Sakina Deer) as Wendy. The dynamics between Wendy and Jo is particularly striking, and Davis delivers what is possibly one of the best performances of her career. Funny Kind a Love is ably directed by Patrick Brown and Trevor Nairne.