PURE JEAN-IUS: "The show seems to speak for a lot of women," notes Small.
Actress, literary stalwart and adventurous spirit, at 78 Jean Small embodies that timeless it factor and unflappable verve. TALLAWAH catches up with a living legend.
Jean Small is happy to talk about age, the inescapable subject that forms the crux of her absorbing, amusing solo theatrical piece, 78 and Tired, which came in for glowing word-of-mouth reviews following its premiere a few weeks ago at St. Andrew's Grosvenor Gallery.
Centred on a woman of a certain number, 78 and Tired examines the frustrations attendant to a life marked by accomplishments which now seem to count for naught. "She's been carrying this burden and all these female responsibilities on her shoulder, but now she wants to move into a life of quietude," explains Small, speaking in a telephone interview from her St. Andrew home.
A poet and dramatic actress of high regard, Small says she drew inspiration for the piece (which enjoyed an intimate performance at the Grosvenor that "worked perfectly") from aspects of her own illustrious life. "In a sense, it is autobiographical," she admits, laughing. "As I said in the show, I'm tired of people telling me I'm 78 when I feel like 45. I have all this dancing in my head, and I'm tired of watching you dance... I am at the stage of my life where I'm retired, but I don't have the money to travel and do some of the things I'd love to do. So I have to keep working whenever I can."
Unsurprisingly (given its relatable subject matter), 78 and Tired resonates with viewers, especially women, who've taken to encouraging Small to turn the piece into a full-bodied stage work. "It seems to speak for a lot of women," Small concludes. "They loved it so much that they now want to see it as a proper show. I'm thinking of doing it in the theatre rounds."
Looking even further ahead, the veteran thespian, who is currently working on a book about the late Noel Vaz's contributions to Jamaican theatre, plans on writing and performing additional solo works for the stage -- not necessarily about advancing in age. "I feel very excited about the little success of the play, and I think I'd like to do more of those," Small says. "I like solo works and performances. I'm more of a tragic actress than anything else."