November 16, 2022

Tribute concert for Leonie

article reposted by Chelsea


Atribute concert in memory of Leonie Forbes is slated for The Little Theatre in St Andrew on November 21.

Basil Dawkins, co-organiser of the event, says it is aimed at reflecting on her legacy.

“We seem to be having that as a ritual when someone in the industry passes. Since when any cultural icon has passed, we hold a concert. The last one I went to was for Volier Johnson. It’s expected and appropriate and suitable way to celebrate her life,” Dawkins told the Jamaica Observer.

Forbes, 85, died at the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew on October 25. Her funeral is slated for The Church of St Margaret in Liguanea, St Andrew, on Thursday at 12:30 pm.

The concert will see performances by the National Dance Theatre Company, L’Acadco Dancers, the Ashe Company, Fae Ellington, Grace McGhie, Alwyn Scott, Dean Fraser, and others.

Dawkins, who knew Forbes for almost 40 years, described her as the consummate professional who helped him to get his big break in the theatre industry.

“I remember I invited her to do one of my plays when I was a young playwright called Champagne and Sky Juice. Maybe it was my fifth play and was terrified at the thought of even asking her. It was a play with just two actors and I felt maybe she thought it was uppity of me to ask her, but when she read the script then she embraced it. It was her and Charles Hyatt and, of course, it was directed by Lloyd Reckord. That play kind of launched me internationally because it was the first time that the two were going to be on stage to strut their stuff alone. Back in the day, you know like how you had Louise Bennett and Ranny Williams, there was Charles and Leonie. A lot of overseas investors were curious about their dynamic and so we played in a lot of venues in North America and the Caribbean,” he recalled.

Forbes attended St George’s Preparatory School, Merrywood Elementary, Mico Practising School, Kingston Senior School, Excelsior College, and Durham College.

Her first job after leaving school was with Sir Philip Sherlock as a typist at the University College of the West Indies. Forbes worked with playwright Barry Reckord, typing his plays and, at times, accompanying him to the studios of the Government Information Service (now Jamaica Information Service) to watch the recording sessions.

It was there that she got her first exposure to radio. When the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation started in 1955, Forbes became an announcer. She was one of its first voices along with Dennis Hall, Desmond Chambers, Erica Allen, and Beverly Anderson.

Forbes had leading roles in 12 pantomimes and acted in plays such as Sea Mama, Miss Unusual, and Old Story Time. 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).

Dawkins said Forbes has left an indelible mark.

“She was humble, legendary, excellent. She was kind, helpful, and serious about her craft and kind enough to pass on tidbits to actors, playwrights, and did it in such a way that you never felt ashamed. She gave her best every single time,” he said.

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