Wednesday, 19 March 2014

LARGER THAN LIFE: At 65, comedy king Oliver Samuels remains in a league all his own

THAT FACE: "I have no intention of slowing down," says the legendary actor.

For Oliver Samuels, the key to longevity in any field of play must involve striving to improve the craft and redefining oneself constantly. He certainly knows what he's talking about, with an enviable career that spans film, television and theatre over the course of some four decades. It's one that has positioned him, at age 65, as the most iconic presence in Caribbean theatre and the hardest working man in Jamaican entertainment and showbiz. 

"As a performer, I am just feeling extremely proud basically. I have been blessed with good health, and I have been able to keep going for these forty-odd years," reflects Samuels, sitting in his modest dressing room after a near-sold-out Thursday night performance of Embassy Saga at the Theatre Place in New Kingston. "I have no intention of slowing down, and I know that I have the approval of the Jamaican people. And wherever I go throughout the Diaspora to perform, wherever Jamaicans and West Indians are, I am well received." 

Even as the Embassy Saga remount continues to attract massive crowds, Samuels and the crew (Audrey Reid and Dennis Titus included) are in the midst of preparations for the Canadian premiere of Dolly House, another laugh-out-loud brainchild from the comedy king, whose comedic writing style one can say is just as extravagantly generous as his on-stage character portrayals. 

"I am not one to complain. I am still working," he says of his life today, though he readily admits, "It's not as rosy as it used to be, but you have to give thanks." 

Reid, who's been around the world and back with Samuels and currently plays his wife, Miriam, in Embassy Saga, chalks up his perpetual crowd-pleasing appeal to a commitment to what he's always done best: entertain. "I think it has to do with discipline and dedication and just his love of theatre," Reid concedes. "People respect him highly and he always tries to bring out themes like family values in his plays."

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