By Tanya Batson-Savage, Staff Reporter
THE IMAGE of Oliver Samuels decked out in ear-muffs and a winter coat at the airport is one that is probably forever etched into the minds of all fans of the 1980s television series Oliver At Large. The series, aired on Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation television (now TVJ), featured sketches from Oliver's exploits, often with his sidekick, 'Maffi'.
This image will make a brief return to the Jamaican stage this summer, in the new Jambiz International production Oliver... Large Abroad. According to Lenford Salmon, Oliver... Large Abroad is not merely a re-write of the sketch from the television series. Salmon, one of the directors of Jambiz, noted that Oliver... Large Abroad, more significantly, takes its inspiration from Patrick Brown's 1997 satirical revue, 'Irie'.
Brown is also responsible for Oliver... Large Abroad. He explains that the production will involve a combination of several previous sketches about Jamaicans and their attempts to go abroad, as well as a spoof of the annual Greetings From Across The World television production. He promises, however, that this time the work will be more dramatic.
According to Brown, the production's limited run did not merit completely new material. He argued, however, that Oliver... Large Abroad will be perfectly suited to its overseas target market.
Oliver... Large Abroad will premiere at the Centrestage Theatre, New Kingston, on August 21, and play until September 7. It will then tour the United States of America for four months.
Salmon informed The Gleaner that the production was originally intended to be the annual Jambiz summer production. Cindy-Relisha and the DJ Prince, Jambiz's 2002-3 Christmas production, was originally scheduled to close in May. However, in light of its continued success the company decided to extend its run.
The Oliver... Large Abroad tour will allow the company to fulfil its United States contracts, to which it had already committed, informed Salmon. However, the production will receive its short local run so that any 'kinks' can be ironed out, Salmon said.
The production will be directed by Trevor Nairne. Both Brown and Nairne have extensive experience in the creation of the 'Oliver' character. Along with work on the television series, the writer/director team has created four 'Oliver'-based comedies for Jambiz since 1998. They are Oliver's Posse (1998), Breadfruit Kingdom (1999), Oliver and Pinocchio (2001), and Oliver and the Genie (2002).
Brown explained that the extent of his relationship with Oliver Samuels and the 'Oliver' character makes writing these productions easier. He argued that the writing process is easier when one can "hear the words coming out of the actor's mouth" and because of the number of productions he has worked on with Samuels, he can do this. "You have to put your jokes in the right mouth," Brown added.
According to him, Oliver's comedic talent makes his the right mouth.
By now, most fans of the character know what to expect from 'Oliver' because of the numerous incarnations. Brown, an engineer by profession, attempts to assure potential audiences that the character remains fresh. The freshness, he says, comes from the people who inspire his writing. "The kind of people I work with," he says, referring to persons on varying construction sites, "is where the material comes from. The real salt of the earth Jamaicans. You can never be out of material."
On August 21, Jamaicans can judge whether he is right.