Saturday, 2 November 2013

MAN OF DISTINCTION: Volier Johnson savours the rewards and fond memories of a life in the theatre

STANDING OUT: "People thought it was just fantastic," Johnson says of Toy Boy, below with McCalla.

Something that surprises many people about Volier Johnson is that in person he exudes incredible modesty, a far cry from the sometimes loudmouthed, but always laugh-out-loud hilarious characters he tends to portray as a veteran actor in theatre. "Nothing happens before its time," he tells TALLAWAH over the phone, in response to being recently given his most prestigious accolade to date: the National Order of Distinction (Officer Class) for sterling contribution to Jamaica's theatre arts community. "But I'm glad they decided to give it to me while I'm still here to receive it."

Indeed. And because the work never ends for Johnson, who has collaborated with everyone from Basil Dawkins to Jambiz International to Stages Productions, these days he's keeping busy with his castmates of If Walls Could Talk, a revival of the David Tulloch drama-comedy opening at Kingston's Green Gables Theatre within a few weeks. "The rehearsals have been going well so far," Johnson reports, "so I'm looking forward to to the show opening."

Speaking of remounts, the actor shares a special connection with Dawkins' masterpiece of a two-hander Toy Boy, which, last month, brought spark and wonderful entertainment to the Little Theatre. 

Johnson says when he and the great Leonie Forbes originated the roles of Josephine and Wrap Up, respectively, in 1995, their efforts contributed to a smashing success, preceded however, by doubts. "People were skeptical because it's two persons in the whole show, but [Leonie] and I put on a great show," reflects the actor, who went on to team up with the inimitable Barbara McCalla (above) for Toy Boy's first revival in 2006.

Looking back, he still cherishes those experiences. "Those ladies are just fabulous women. Leonie and I spent hours by ourselves because we were determined to prove that a two-hander could be done." And in the end? "People thought it was just fantastic."

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