Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
Professor Mervyn Morris, in his preface to the book Leonie, Her Autobiography: Leonie Forbes as told to Mervyn Morris states, "I was captivated by her story and her way of telling it. What I have done, essentially, is organise and edit her recall."
And so it seemed to have been.
The book reads as if one is in conversation with Leonie. And in that conversation, Leonie speaks candidly in language that is appealing to everyone about her childhood, adulthood, education, love and marriage, theatre involvement, her work at the now-defunct Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, and more.
But to get to the well-presented information, one must first pause and have a look at the attention-grabbing hard-copy-bound cover. The front of the book jacket boasts a medium-size picture of a smiling Leonie flanked to the left by pocket-size photographs, also of Forbes, in various roles and stages of her life.
The back of the jacket is a collage of posters of plays, such as Old Story Time, and others.
Inside, the table of content reveals 13 chapters and two appendices.
Appendix One, titled 'From Leonie's Résumé', presents an impressive list of awards, performances and job positions. Appendix Two provides pictorial reinforcement for the performances and awards mentioned in the first. It is titled 'Leonie's Review Scrapbook'.
The first chapter, 'Tracking the Family', sets the mood for the conversation. Here, Leonie speaks of being born to a teenage mother (she was raised by an Aunt G).
Aunt G, who was "a little older than her mother, and was married, brought her from St Elizabeth to Kingston to await the arrival of the little blessing". Thus, her surname Forbes came from Jonathan Forbes, Aunt G's first husband.
But Aunt G was "controlling, manipulative and jealous", and so young Leonie was kept from her birth mother.
She experienced her first show of affection from her mother when she was nearly 51, after a performance of The Rope and The Cross.
Her childhood was also plagued with instability in other forms. Leonie had to move from one place to another.
This was, in part, because of Aunt G's divorce. Leonie lived at several places, including many stints |in St Elizabeth with her grandparents.
Forbes' educational background is the focus of chapters two and four. Titled 'School' and 'Theatre Training', respectively, Leonie explains that her formal education began at St Luke's Nursery. But she was also schooled at Merrywood Elementary in St Elizabeth and Mico Practising in Kingston.
Forbes remembers Louise Bennett's visit while at Kingston Senior School. "She worked with us on the Alphabet Song." Later, with a half-scholarship, she went to Excelsior High.
Forbes' aunt did not approve of her doing sport, so after a brief illness she became involved with music, spawning her love affair with the performing arts.
But her training in theatre arts would not happen until after she attended Durham College where she had a job in the extramural department.
Leonie speaks extensively about her studies at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in the chapter 'Theatre Training'.
She presents a comprehensive look at Laban Theory and Stanislaviski's method acting.
"I have taken from each, the things that I could make my own, and now they've come together as perhaps me ... . Over the years some of what I learnt has been fine tuned ... ."
Chapters five ('Love and Marriage') and eight ('Divorce and Marriage'), as the titles suggest, address Forbes' relationships, the birth of her four children, and her failed marriages.
In detail, she describes the reaction of Carlos, her first "love", to the news of her pregnancy. "He was unprepared, as socially vulnerable as I was, and love seemed to take some backward steps immediately."
Forbes' second marriage resulted in her living in Australia for a period, and in the chapter titled 'Australia', she continues in poetic language to paint a picture of work with the La Boite Theatre Company and at IBM as a librarian.
On the other hand, the chapter titled 'Dreams and Vision' gives an insight into her spirituality.
In 'Reflection', she continues to share her views on the role of the Church and on institutions such as the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, as well as theatre reviewers/critics.
Leonie Forbes' broadcasting career is the highlight of chapters three, six and seven. And in Chapter 11, she dedicates her journey to the production of Old Story Time.
Leonie, Her Autobiography: Leonie Forbes as told to Mervyn Morris is highly recommended as a book of inspiration and practicality.