Saturday, 7 February 2015

WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE: Ruth HoShing's acting career has been flush with choice collaborators, winning roles

PAUSE AND REFLECT: The actress, photographed in her dressing room at the Little Little Theatre; (below) with Samuels, in a scene from Divorce Papers.

You don't just see a Ruth HoShing performance; you feel it. For more than two decades, this iconic stage actress has been mesmerizing critics and audiences with her emotional intelligence and uncanny ability to disappear into a role, be it a beleaguered single mother (A Gift for Mom), a high-powered attorney (Against His Will) or the vengeful wife, as brilliantly portrayed in Divorce Papers, her umpteenth collaboration with Basil Dawkins, now playing at the Little Little Theatre through April.

In the company of such luminaries as Leonie Forbes, Dorothy Cunningham and the late Christine Bell, HoShing is easily one of the greatest Jamaican actresses of her generation, hardly (if ever at all) accused of rendering a mediocre performance. It is an outstanding quality that the award-winning leading lady (now in her early 60s) chalks up to a simple mantra that never goes out of style: "Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse." It doesn't hurt either that she's been fortunate in her line of work to find excellent collaborators. Leaping readily to mind are fellow theatre practitioners like veteran director Douglas Prout, regular costar Maylynne Lowe, and Dawkins.

To wit, ever since 1980's Flatmates, the playwright's commercial theatre debut, HoShing and Dawkins have been practically inseparable. (Come to think of it, we almost feel the same way about Deon Silvera and Dahlia Harris, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.) So what's the adhesive that's kept her tethered to Basil Dawkins' camp all these years? What makes their fruitful creative partnership work so well? "I think it boils down to the quality of his work. He writes some of the most amazing and believable female characters I've ever come across. Very real and relatable," HoShing says. "And we've been working together for so long that after a while he started writing characters with me in mind. A play like Which Way Is Out? is a good example."

That's a singular example in an oeuvre that also includes such Dawkins masterpieces as Uptown Bangarang, Uptown Bangarang 2, For Better or Worse, Feminine Justice, and the list goes on. Now comes Divorce Papers which, for the actress, is special for several reasons, not least because, "It's a dream come true. I get to work with three of my favourite men  Basil, Dougie and Oliver."

For his part, Dawkins considers HoShing an ideal collaborator. "Ruth was here from the beginning and has been with me throughout when she has a role and when she doesn't have a role," the ace playwright-producer says. "And after so many productions it's hard to imagine doing one without having her by my side. She is invaluable to me."
Though it would appear to the average theatregoer that HoShing works exclusively with the Dawkins-Prout dream team, her lengthy and well-decorated resume proves otherwise, documenting her appearances in productions by everyone from Louis Marriott (his Jokers revues were all the rage back in the 80s) and Ed Wallace to Fabian Thomas and David Heron, whose boundary-pushing Against His Will secured her an Actor Boy for supporting actress in 2001. In more recent times, she's co-headlined Who Ah Di Don? and Dolly House, two solid comedic vehicles from Samuels' eponymous production house.

By her own admission, show producers aren't exactly blowing up Ruth HoShing's phone today with offers, but, provides that the circumstances are favourable, she's ready and willing to work. "As long as the script is nice, a challenge, with some fresh ideas, then sure," she admits. "[Branching out] can only help me grow as an actress."

Coupled with her success as a radio and JBC broadcaster - not to mention the producer of Schools' Challenge Quiz in Dennis Hall's era HoShing's outstanding career and contributions continue to inspire - and keep her grounded. "I have been blessed. To still be a working actress in these times I have to give thanks," she concedes, her voice laden with gratitude. "It's been a wonderful ride." 

> Review: Read TALLAWAH's take on Basil Dawkins' Divorce Papers




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