Wednesday, 5 April 2017

WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE: Grace McGhie-Brown’s life in theatre comes full circle with ABA Lifetime Achievement Award

RESPECT DUE: Fae Ellington salutes McGhie-Brown, her theatre sis, while presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award at last Monday's ABA ceremony.

IT was bound to happen. She’s built an illustrious career in the dramatic arts, worked with some of the finest stage directors of her generation and won no less than three Best Actress statuettes. So when Grace McGhie-Brown, a vision in blue, graced the stage at Monday’s Actor Boy Awards ceremony to collect the Lifetime Achievement Award from esteemed colleague Fae Ellington, the moment marked the apex of a life in the theatre filled with forgettable lows and triumphant highs.

But McGhie-Brown is the first to admit that the journey of getting to this point in her life took a collective team effort, and so credit is due to not only the writers and directors of international repute who gave her great work but to supportive sisters like Ellington, Jean Small, Barbara McCalla and Leonie Forbes (the night’s Best Actress for Not My Child), whom she cited, among other long-time colleagues, for their love and continued support.

Still, when people talk about an actress like Grace McGhie-Brown, who started acting professionally in 1971, it’s the juicy roles in some of the most appealing plays in modern Jamaican theatre that get mentioned the most. It’s a long list that includes such crowd-pleasers as Smile Orange, Two Can Play (both by the late great Trevor Rhone), Easton Lee’s The Rope & The Cross, Louis Marriott’s Playboy and the Basil Dawkins double header of What the Hell is Happening to Us, Dear? and Champagne & Sky Juice

Indeed, four and a half decades of work (spanning radio, TV, film and stage) has made Grace McGhie-Brown, a Titchfield High alumna, one of the golden ladies of our island culture. 

And it’s a culture, the theatrical arts in particular, that she wants to see flourish for years to come. Hence her charge to the new and emerging generation of theatre practitioners. “Love and support each other. No tearing down. Have respect for your craft and practice it with integrity and discipline,” she told the packed Phoenix Theatre auditorium. “There is nothing to compare to feeling the audience connecting with you; the feeling of a job well done. And this should be in every aspect of your life.” 

As she tells it, receiving this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Actor Boy Awards committee is a gesture that moves her to tears. “Tonight is very special for me, and I get to share it with the people I love,” she admitted. “I am deeply honoured to accept it, and I will treasure it always.”

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