‘Father Ho Lung & Friends wul dem!’ - 7 Actor Boy awards for ‘Isaiah’
From the comments on the Facebook live stream of the Actor Boy Awards on Saturday evening, it was clear that theatre practitioners were out in full force to cheer on their favourites, and their comments provided quite a chunk of the evening’s delight. From the amusing opening video montage of the nominees getting all dolled up for the occasion, to the closing curtain, there were screams of delight, depicted by lots of exclamation signs and the ever-present emojis. When Robin Baston scored a solid hat-trick by walking away with the first three awards for the evening, it was clear that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the organisers online, this would be no ordinary awards show. The comments were an added element and they were priceless: “Wwooaahhh, Robin a gwan wid ah bag ah tingz!” “Robin, you good massa.” “Goodaz Robin Baston!” “Mi fren Robin Baston.”
For his work on Isaiah, the biblical drama staged by Father Ho Lung & Friends, Baston was awarded Best Set Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Special Effects Design. And it was a night on which the general consensus from those commenting live was that “Father Ho Lung & Friends wul dem!” as demonstrated by Isaiah collecting a total of seven awards for the 2019 theatre season, the most by any single entity. The musical also waltzed away with Best Production; Best Costume Design, Greg Thames and Clayton Gidden; Best Sound Design, Ryan Esson and Best Musical. Isaiah was also nominated for Best Director and Best Choreography. An overwhelmed Baston gave all the acceptance speeches.
Among the most highly anticipated awards were the Best Actor and Actress in a Lead Role categories. Earle Brown was triumphant for his role in the Basil Dawkins Productions’ Once A Man Twice A Wife, while Dahlia Harris took it home for Straight Jacket, a JAMBIZ Productions drama. For Straight Jacket, too, the 2019 season proved fruitful. The other big winner on Saturday evening, the production also scooped the prizes Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Sakina Deer; Best Director, Patrick Brown and Trevor Nairne; Best Drama and Best New Jamaican Play. Best Actor nominee for Straight Jacket, theatre veteran Glen Campbell, with champagne glass in hand, toasted JAMBIZ via Zoom.
Quilt, a company founded 10 years ago by Glenmuir High School past student, Rayon McLean, had topped the nominations list with a whopping 15, for the musical drama, Re’Ashored, which has been a part of Jamaica’s presentation at Carifesta in Barbados and Trinidad. Nominations included Best Production, Best Director; Best Drama; Best Choreography; Best Sound Design; Best Lighting Design; Best Costume Design; Best Set Design; Best Musical; Best Special Effects Design; Best Actor in a Lead Role; Best Actor in a Supporting Role (two nominations) and Best Original Song (two nominations).
Fans were rooting for Quilt, and each time a clip appeared with them in one of their nominated categories, the comments section went into overdrive: “Leggo QUILT!!!!” “Quilt just awesome!!” “Come through mi side #QUILT.” “Dis nice eeeeeeeeh?” But, alas, the high-level enthusiasm displayed was not enough to translate into wins and Quilt only managed to cop the well-deserved Best Choreography for Re’Ashored.
Praises were showered on Edith Dalton High School for their win in the Best Children’s Theatre category for their inspirational A Child’s Cry (Call to Rescue Our Youth) and also on the School of Drama Edna Manley College, for being awarded Best Ensemble, for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The trio of Dahlia Harris, Conroy Wilson and Grub Cooper won the Best Original Song category for Ex Man a de Best Man (Case of the Ex), and, for his performance in Basil Dawkins Productions’ Feminine Justice, Philip Clarke was awarded Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
For the special tribute section of this year’s Actor Boy Awards, the organisers remembered “those we have lost”, among them Joy Bell, Gil Bailey, Lois Kelly Miller, Paul Beale, Noel Dexter, Robert ‘Bobby’ Clarke, TIppa Squad One, Franklyn ‘Chappie’ St Juste, Barry Moncrieffe, and Erald Waysome, with video vignettes. Former member of The University Singers, Mario Evans, paid homage in song.
While the show was not without technical glitches, it was ably pulled together by host, Nadean Rawlins, and the age-old theatre principle, ‘the show must go on’, was in full effect, with one practitioner declaring, “Theatre must open back one day, or if not we deh yah fi do it pon Zoom.”