Laff it Off finds more space
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
After filling an opening in what is ordinarily limited theatre space in Jamaica, the hilarious musical revue Laff It Off was prevented from having a longer run because of that very same limitation - the availability of theatre space.
The play, which parodies current social and political issues, had a successful two-weekend staging in early August at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus. The run has now been extended, with two additional weekends at the Little Little Theatre. The first started yesterday and ends tomorrow and then it is on again next weekend, August 29-31. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m.
Starring a cast including Russhaine 'Dutty' Berry, Dalton Spence, Simone Clarke-Cooper, Mark 'Bones' Martin, Rodney Campbell, and Akeem Mignott, some of them actors and actresses not often seen on the local theatre circuit, Laff It Off has played to sold-out audiences. "The feedback from the audience has been fantastic! They love the opportunity to just laugh at ourselves, what's happening, what's current. People can always look forward to what's happening in the news. If something happens today, you can see it in the play later, and that's the kind of thing we like to do," said Oliver Mair, the writer and producer.
Mair said he wrote Laff It Off to take advantage of theatre space that became available at the Philip Sherlock Centre. "In fact, when we closed, if it was that the audience was not appreciating the show, we would have closed. The final night, they said, 'More! More! More!', so we approached Little Little Theatre and we were able to bring back the production for two more weeks," he said.
After next weekend, it is up in the air whether Laff It Off will come to an end as theatre space is hard to come by. It is a situation that has for a long time been the bane of producers and audiences alike. "Anytime a production is mounted, it is our dream that we get to share with our audience far more than we had intended, but one of the constraints we face as theatre practitioners in Jamaica is theatre space availability. Outside of audience interest, that is our next challenge, so where we go from here could be impacted by that," said Scarlett Beharie, the stage and production manager, who also handles the public relations. "It's not often that we get this kind of response, so when we do it's a blessing."
Beharie credits the cast for bringing Mair's work to life. "I have been doing theatre for a really long time, and I have always found that no matter what, if a production is right, people will enjoy it. And once people enjoy it, they will come because word of mouth is still the best advertising you can get," she said.
"The entire play is hilarious, but the scenes that have resonated most with the audiences are what we thought would be some of our more controversial ones. We have this entire scene dedicated to K.D. (Knight) done to the tune of Let It Be. We have an operatic ode to JPS, and then we have some really small - call them cliche - scenes, like we have this scene with Russhaine and Simone concentrating, and that gets the biggest belly laughs every night," Beharie said.