Oliver Samuels' time off ends
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Renowned and revered actor Oliver Samuels had big personal plans after the 2009 Jambiz Production ended. He intended to revisit or really visit some of the places he had always wanted to see or been to while travelling with productions, when the brief stop did not allow him to experience the places.
On Samuels' 'places to do' list were Ghana, The Gambia, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, parts of Canada outside of Toronto, and the wine-producing region of France (having already had a taste, as a wine lover).
It did not quite work out as planned, as in early July 2009 Samuels went to Canada to help a friend with a production there and ended up staying until October. That took him into the time of year for his annual England trek, leaving no room for the great explorations he had planned.
And now he is back in Jamaica for Puppy Love, which opens at 8 p.m. on Wednesday at The Pantry, Dumfries Road, New Kingston. Samuels will appear with Dahlia Harris, Earl Brown and Natalie Cole, the script done by Patrick Brown, who also co-directs with Trevor Nairne.
There went the year's break Samuels had planned, "to get an idea of the geography of the place and the culture" where previously he had arrived, done interviews, a rehearsal, a performance, slept in a hotel, packed his bags and exited. And this applies to even accustomed places, as Samuels told The Sunday Gleaner: "For example, you go to Atlanta or even Miami. You perform there but you have no sense of where the outlying towns are. You hardly get to go to places of interest, the museum, or to see a show."
For the last 21 years, Samuels has been part of a production on the weekend of Mother's Day in Toronto, Canada, and Puppy Love is the 'lick' this year. Samuels said there are also hopes to take it to different parts of the island. He pointed out that "when you get the blessing of the Jamaican audience, you can perform anywhere in the world", and even an audience laden with Jamaicans in Toronto is nowhere as tough as one in Jamaica.
Feeling of nostalgia
The Sunday Gleaner asked Samuels to rank the second toughest audience and he deliberated a bit before putting no one even a distant runner-up. "I can't think of anywhere else. I don't know if it is because those abroad have this longing, there is this feeling of nostalgia, whereas Jamaica is constantly full of all genres of theatre," he said.
"The audiences here have a choice, they are selective," he said, that leading them to critique a production with authority. The constant exposure allows the audience to have more knowledge of the making and mounting of theatre, while those overseas do not get the productions as often.
Ahead of Wednesday's opening, Samuels has been going to other plays; while Puppy Love is on, he will not be able to do so, as it runs from Tuesdays to Sundays. And, ahead of the opening, as the advertisements have been aired, Samuels said he has been receiving many calls from those who missed his presence. "People were wondering if I was ill, if I had migrated," he said.
"It makes me feel blessed; it makes me feel special. They have made me and they still care and I really, from the bottom of my heart, thank them," Samuels said.