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A Moment With Ricky Rowe and Emprezz Golding

Emprezz Golding and Ricky Rowe in Laff It Off

When Oliver Mair’s Laff It Off returned to the boards on Boxing Day 2014 (December 26) more than just a few sketches had been changed. Ricky Rowe and Emprezz Golding had stepped in fill the shoes of Simone Cooper Clarke and Mark Martin (two of the stronger members of the cast) who departed the show. The two come from divergent spaces with Golding being a theatrical virgin and Rowe having been (re)virgined after a decade long absence from the Jamaican stage.

Interestingly,  Rowe, a graduate of the Edna Manley College who migrated to the UK twelve years ago, is no stranger to an Oliver Mair comedy revue, having been a part of the cast of Mair's last foray into theatre, Dat Ting. Additionally, although he may be a virtual stranger to most Jamaicans, Rowe has been racking up years of experience in London performing with Blue Mountain Theatre and taking the stage with the likes of Oliver Samuels, Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley and Audrey Reid. 

Akeem Mignott (left) and Ricky Rowe (right) in the sketch Spelling BeeIn 2007, he moved to create his own production company Yaadie Boy Entertainment, through which he writes and produces his own plays. Earlier this year he returned to Jamaica to visit family and introduce his children to the island, when he got the call from Mair. 

“At the moment I was just playing tourist, so (I thought) it would be good to wet my feet again,” he says.

“It felt as if I was stepping back into where I left,” Rowe says with a light laugh. He admits, that despite the familiarity, the laissez faire style he re-encountered with the writing and directorial team of Laff It Off (Mair and Craig McNally), was momentarily disconcerting, forcing him to re-orient his perspective. 

“A so di ting stay down here? Onnu no shift up di ting?” Rowe admits to asking himself in the early days of being on the set. “I’ve had to kind of figet everything what mi learn a London and just deal with the ting,” he says. 

Even so, he doesn’t regard this as a negative experience, and has brought him back to certain magic that was missing in the order of the London theatrical scene.

“I haven’t acted in Jamaica properly for over 12 years,” he says. “There’s a majic that happens in theatre in Jamaica, that doesn’t happen in London. As much as it's more professional and more like a job, there is something I haven’t experience in about 12 years.Christina Starz (left), Emprezz Golding (centre) and Patria Kaye Aarons in Outameni

For Golding, the experience is completely new. She explains that despite always being of a theatrical bent, acting is a new road for her, with the exception of a few plays in high school, where she played the Scarecrow in The Wiz. The closest she has been she explains, is through music. Her music career includes her two-year stint with the Sony Records signed girl band Cherry, and later a solo deal with Warner.

“This comes at the perfect time,” Golding says, explaining that she has just wrapped up a season of the television show Jamaica DWL, which left her open to pursue this new opportunity.

“I was a little hesitant at first, I didn’t even fully commit until I came to the first rehearsal,” she confesses.

Yet once she was in, fully commit she did, trying to learn from her cast members, using exuberance to make up for inexperience, and ensuring that during rehearsals she go maximum benefit, even if it meant driving the other members of the cast crazy, by insisting they run it again, or another ten times. 

“It was like paradise being on stage with them,” she says, expressing particular admiration for Rowe and his performance style. She remarks that both the cast and production team have been welcoming and helpful.

“It’s been good. I was nervous at first, though I’m not one to get nervous.” she says, going on to point out that she had not realized how much energy it requires to do a review and give an energetic performance in multiple scenes as different characters. 

Both actors are unsure as to whether the Jamaican stage has more to offer them but they are open to the possibilities. 

“I would definitely do another Laff It Off, but I don’t know if I would do a full play,” Golding says with a laugh. 

She slightly changes this tune however, when Rowe indicates that he may do a local production of one of his plays while he’s on the island, quickly indicating that she would be game for one of his pieces.

“I’m open to doing as much stuff as I can while I’m here,” Rowe says. 

Golding describes her tenure with Laff It Off, as akin to a university degree which has taught her that there is far more to embodying a role than learning the lines. One of the important lessons she has learned is about audience interaction, which she describes as “gold”.

“You can see how important it is: that balance between the audience and the people on the stage,” she says.

 “The stage is intimate,” adds Rowe. “You see these people before you and you can decide to either let them come with you on a journey or you can just by-pass them.”

One thing is clear is that the two are enjoying their journey in Laff It Off, currently playing at The Theatre Place, in Kingston.