With a slew of memorable and career-defining comedic performances behind him, there is little left for theatre great Oliver Samuels to accomplish. Save to, perhaps, flip the script and pen a few stories of his own, which, as it happens, is exactly what Samuels is doing these days. At a recent commemorative reading of Trevor Rhone’s school-and-scandal play School’s Out at Bookophilia in St. Andrew, Samuels spoke with TALLAWAH about Rhone’s lasting cultural relevance and the gist of his upcoming show.
TALLAWAH: Why does Trevor Rhone’s work remain so vital to Jamaican culture?
Samuels: Trevor, I would say, is one of our foremost writers. Trevor’s work has been in the wider world. It has taken on so much acclaim; schools have studied his work and all like that. It is of great importance to our culture.
TALLAWAH: Of course, you’re one of the veterans who worked with the gifted dramatist over the years.
Samuels: I have worked with him, and I would describe the time as memorable. Actually, this work School’s Out was a work in progress when we did it [in 1975]. We workshopped seven sections of it, and then Yvonne Brewster came and made quite a fantastic contribution to the making of the final show.
TALLAWAH: Word is, you’ve penned a new family comedy that’ll be on stage before year-end. Can you say what it’s about?
Samuels: It’s really a question, and it’s about this family that has lost the father and the son decides to drop out of university and find who the murderer is. And so the mother, who is a teacher, she is so concerned about him dropping out of school that she calls for his uncle to try to influence him to go back to school. The uncle is a farmer; he loves his farm and all of that.
TALLAWAH: What’s the title of the play, and where and when will it open?
Samuels: It’s called Who Ah Di Don? [directed by Peter Abrikian], and it opens on the 10th of November at the new Stages Theatre (15 Knutsford Boulevard) in New Kingston.
TALLAWAH: So will you be performing in this one?
Samuels: Yes, I will be. I play the uncle, the farmer, who comes to town to influence the boy to go back to university. The farmer, he believes very strongly in education so you will see how it all plays out.
LEND ME A QUARTET: Samuels joins Munair Zacca (left), Trevor Fearon and Teddy Price for a reading of Rhone's School's Out at Bookophilia.