“A comedic delight”
Reviews - The Jamaica Gleaner (Date: Friday August 29, 2003)
Oliver Large Abroad - "Another riotous ride with Oliver"
By Tanya Batson-Savage, Staff Reporter.
Oliver' (Oliver Samuels) is shocked to discover (and Doris, played by Ruth HoSingh is happy to tell him) that he needs more than a passport to travel to the United States in the sketch comedy 'Oliver Large Abroad'. JAMAICANS ARE being given the chance to continue their hilarious affair with 'Oliver' (played by Oliver Samuels) in the new production being staged by Jambiz International at the Centerstage theatre in New Kingston, Oliver Large Abroad. The production, which will end on September 7, opened last week Thursday. Oliver is probably Jamaica's most beloved comedic figure, in large part because he represents that part of ourselves that we most like to mock and celebrate. So far Oliver has ruled a kingdom, used a genie's powers to abolish slavery and gone through a myriad of scrapes. However, there are none so memorable as his attempts to leave Jamaica's shores and worm his way to the ever-elusive land of milk and honey, also known as 'farin'. In Oliver Large Abroad he finally makes it to 'farin' the United States, to the uninitiated. Written by Patrick Brown (whose imaginative pen has been responsible for many of Oliver's previous scrapes), the play features Oliver's varying attempts to go to the United States. The sketches are loosely stitched together by Oliver, who explains what the next
scene will feature and why he got involved.
'Oliver' has not been fine-tuned in the least, especially not in performance of the role. So, for those who want to see more of the cantankerous buffoon, Oliver Large Abroad provides a very hearty helping, but offers nothing to anyone else. He is the same Oliver that has been hitting stages and screens for nearly two decades. He is still loud, 'hignorant', quick to anger and able to curse with the best of them. It's funny, but it's still an old hat, especially when the constant yelling which often passes as Oliver's mode of speech can become tiresome. Glen Campbell continues to prove himself capable of taking on a myriad of roles, smoothly moving from one character to the next without a trace of similarity between them.
His stint as 'Stagga', Oliver's drunken uncle, was hilarious, especially with his 'fluid command of the English Language'. This sketch was the only one in which Oliver did not star. Essentially, Oliver Large Abroad brings nothing new to the table. Fortunately, it does not pretend to offer anything new. A few shiny buttons have been added, some jokes reflecting today's world, but the material is much the same. There is talk of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), plastic surgery and a white Michael Jackson. Even so, the old jokes are still able to hold water and seem no worse for wear. The oldest of these and possibly the most memorable is Oliver's first attempt to leave the island. He gets to the airport wearing a full-length, bright blue fake fur coat, accessorised with a red and black scarf and tam.
For many, this sketch should prove something of a walk down memory lane. Lines such as 'Me travel very regular,' and 'Go ask yuh granny cow' were etched on the public imagination from the television series. Even after all these years, it is still very funny. The only thing which fell slightly short, was Ruth HoShing's performance. Although the costume is right and her actions matched, she was unable to capture the correct accent for the role of the 'brawling woman', as her voice remaining slightly too refined. Not all the sketches are as popular, or are as well imagined, as this one. For example, Oliver's journey to outer space has some funny moments, but is too weak in conception. Another very funny sketch is Oliver's stint as a deejay. This segment involves a song which makes Whiter Shade of Pale seem coherent and Elephant Man's tunes philosophical. The success
of this segment does not merely rely on Oliver Samuels, however. Marguerite Newland gives a brilliant performance as Oliver's 'baby mother' in this sketch.
Such performances simply make it clear that it is a shame that Brown did not allow greater interplay between the characters, giving the other actors more to work with. With the exception of Samuels, all the other members of the cast Ruth Hoshing, Glen Campbell and Marguerite Newland had to play multiple, though often peripheral, roles. Greater attention could have been paid to the other characters, who were far too often little more than fillers. Although it is an 'Oliver' comedy, there was simply too much talent at their disposal and much of it was hardly used, which is a crying shame.