Samson & Di Liar: Tales from a bus stop
A treasure trove of stories can be unearthed from the street of any town or city. And, presented through the prism of the performing arts, these stories can be medicinal for the soul or potent social commentary. This is the case of the play Samson & Di Liar, which opened on Friday at the Little Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, St Andrew.
Written by Winston 'Bello' Bell, Ricky Rowe, and Tony Hendriks, Samson & Di Liar fuses the stories of two homeless men, Samson (Hendriks) and Earsring (Rowe), to illustrate that not only do homeless people have dreams, but there is much to learn by just listening to each other, which can be cathartic.
Aptly, Samson & Di Liar is set on a street, at a bus stop in New Kingston. Its beginning is rather unnerving. Early one morning, Samson is trying to sleep and is interrupted by the entrance of Earsring. Then slowly, as the story grinds on (especially act one), spanning a number of weeks, much is revealed about the characters.
Their similarities go beyond being homeless. And their differences are not limited to contrasting skin tones, but are also evident in the way they view life and women, as well as their skills in coping with life on the streets. It is the latter, however, why the steadfast Samson decides to share his prime property with Earsring. Both end up sharing their stories of tragedy and comedy. This leads to friendship and, ultimately, behavioural change.
In this regard (the growth that results from the Samson and Earsring encounter), the playwrights did well. Overall, the script shows great potential, especially through the unnerving story of Samson and the lighter - but just as important - tale of Earsring. The main conflict is by virtue of the characters' plights, but their squabbles also proved to be just as dramatic. Some nicely-written lines and a lighter second act also increase the standard of the production.
However, the familiarity of their characters may be the undoing of Hendriks and Rowe's acting, as there were some inconsistencies. They knew their characters well, but while both did a good job with the timing of comic lines for impact and sang with passion, their acting was at times quite flat. This was evident in the Hendriks opera scene and Rowe's delivery of some lines and the playing of some important beats.
Hendriks and Rowe also teamed up with producer Scarlette Beharie to direct the play. Here, too, they may have erred. The positions of the actors on stage were, for the most part, mundane, in spite of them utilising all the acting areas, along with varying heights and having Earsring entering from audience. There were no creatively bold actions.
The directors might also want to review the underused props placed at the front of the stage to the audience's left and ease the confusion created when Samson and Earsring exit at the back of the stage to speak to their respective partners. The unanswered question is where did they go and why did thy not return to the bus stop? And the trio might perhaps want to explore reducing the clutter of props behind the bus shed to symbolise the changes in the characters' lives.
On the other hand, the technical areas were of a high standard, in particular, the Patrick Russell-designed bus stop. It complemented not only the script, but also the small stage of the Little Little Theatre. But while the set is ideal in shape and colour, as is the bench that provides a bed for Samson, the bus stop's location in relation to the road is not clear. The costumes and the props also reinforce the status of each character.
Samson & Di Liar is worth seeing for its freshness in storyline, themes, clean-but-catchy song lyrics, and general entertainment.