Friday, 26 July 2013

A TALE OF THREE DIVAS: Audrey Reid vs. Dahlia Harris vs. Lisa Williams -- the Best Actress race heats up

ROLE PLAY: Reid in Embassy Saga; Below, Harris (right) and Barrett in Thicker Than Water; Bottom, Williams (centre) in Taboo.

We're less than seven months away from the announcement of nominations for the Thespian Spirit Awards (and later the Actor Boys), and as I write this we're close to knee-deep in performances jockeying for consideration. Not surprisingly, a host of female actors -- fast-rising thespians, seasoned contenders and comeback queens -- are busy offering up some of the best work of their careers. 

At this stage of the race, three leading ladies have captured my attention, not only on account of their sharply rendered turns but just how powerfully they use their stage presence to winning effect. After years in the awards wilderness, Audrey Reid's captivating work as a beleaguered wife in Embassy Saga proves she's got lots more vroom in the engine, even as she reminds us of her ability to going from drolly campy to seriously dramatic at the drop of a hat. 
Perhaps her equal in range and versatility, Dahlia Harris, a perennial favourite when it comes to showing and proving as an actress, could secure her next statuette for her deeply nuanced and riveting portrayal of a career woman under fire in her latest creation, Thicker Than Water. Leading a cast that includes last year's supporting-actress winner and Pularchie standout Suzette Barrett and this year's breakout sensation Shawna-Kae Burns, Harris' Kimberly is a study in head-strong drive and understandable ferocity and, in some instances, an inspiration for young women intent on scaling that corporate ladder. 
And lastly, a word on Taboo's Lisa Williams, who is sure to earn a place among the key players come awards season. Having closely tracked her burgeoning big-screen to stage career, for me, Williams (a performer barely in her 20s) possesses the requisite heft and creative cunning to become the Karen Harriott of her generation. Her deeply impressive performance in Taboo banks on wit, youthful ebullience and depth that, when combined, is nothing short of moving and memorably mature. 

Like Harris and Reid (as well as the likes of Neekah Whyte in the School of Drama's excellent Blood Wedding and Burns in Thicker Than Water), Williams knows what can be had by trusting your instincts, gently stepping to the side, and letting the character come roaring through.

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