November 18, 2022
IT’S said when it rains at a funeral the dearly departed has made his or her way to the Pearly Gates. This was the case for renowned actress, broadcaster, and producer Leonie Forbes, whose family and friends gathered at the Church of St Margaret in Liguanea, St Andrew, on Thursday to bid her farewell.
The curtains came down on her life on October 25. She was 85.
The pews of the Anglican Church were filled with mourners, predominantly wearing black, who reflected on the woman who has no doubt left an indelible mark in the lives of many.
Forbes’ long-time friend and colleague Fae Ellington delivered the remembrance which primarily hailed the theatre stalwart as a perfectionist who left no stone unturned over the course of her six-decade career.
“When Leonie inhabits a character, it takes you on a merry and enthralling journey. Leonie was intentional about details, authenticity — every detail about the person she would become: physical details, emotional details, personality details, costume and make-up details, prop details, movement details, vocal details…Those who have seen her at work and attested to details took on to roles such as Miss Ivy in Trevor Rhone’s Old Story Time, Mother of Judas in Easton Lee’s The Rope and the Cross, Josephine Benedict in Basil Dawkins’ Toy Boy, all treated with detail,” Ellington recalled.
On a more personal note, Ellington added that Forbes’ busy schedule never stood in the way of her motherly duties to her four children, before that figure was unfortunately cut in two.
“During her earlier years she was mother of four children; Bobby, Karen, Moyo and Dianne. Leonie’s two sons, Moyo and Bobby, predeceased her. Burying not one child, but two, called for a certain kind of strength and stoicism. Her daughters Karen and Dianne say they could not meet friends around the corner, and very often the children of her friends became their friends. They found her warm and welcoming…Dianne remembers that [for] her school report, she would be more interested in the comments rather than the A, B or C — she was very supportive,” she said.
As for Basil Dawkins, whose tribute was read by Alwyn Scott, Forbes was nothing short of royalty. He remarked that her ‘status’ had so much more to do with her characteristics, and not merely her theatre abilities.
“Whatever you called her, whatever else you knew her as, one thing is beyond dispute — this lady was first and foremost a queen. To say that she was queen of Jamaican screen and theatre is perhaps an understatement. Leonie Forbes was a queen, full stop,” Scott said.
“She was selected for her ‘royal duties’ to concentrate her energy on superstardom strengths, power, and talent for the areas of the performing arts using the stage, the big screen and television. This queen brought to the theatre and the performing arts magnificence, dignity and respect for the craft. Leonie’s absolute minimum standard was excellence, without apology, accompanied by a generous overdose of humility,” he continued.
Other industry colleagues such as Michael Nicholson, Maylynne Lowe, and Munair Zacca were also in attendance.
There were performances from The National Chorale of Jamaica and the Jamaican Folk Singers.
Forbes had leading roles in 12 pantomimes and acted in plays such as Sea Mama, Miss Unusual, Old Story Time, and Champagne and Sky Juice. She has also appeared in the films Children of Babylon (1980), Club Paradise (1986), The Orchid House (1991), Milk and Honey (1995), What My Mother Told Me (1995) and, Soul Survivor (1995).
In September 2012 she launched Leonie: Her Autobiography at Little Theatre in St Andrew. The book is a collaboration between Forbes and university lecturer/poet Professor Mervyn Morris.
She was honoured with the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican Government and a Musgrave gold medal from the Institute of Jamaica.
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