Remembering the roots of Paul O Beale


Remembering the roots of Paul O Beale

By Aaliyah Cunningham
Observer writer

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

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ACTOR Michael “String Bean” Nicholson says late playwright Paul O Beale contributed significantly to the development and popularity of roots theatre in Jamaica. The genre erupted in the 1980s through fellow playwrights Ginger Knight, Balfour Anderson and Ralph Holness.

“He created a lot of plays, and films and pieces for television. He has a large body of work. He created characters such as Delcita and Melcita who have been associated with the genre from its developing stages. These characters and his work will live on. His association with Stages Production is also very important as it was a trailblazer of roots theatre and remains a staple today,” Nicholson told the Jamaica Observer.

Stages Production is a Kingstonbased production house which began 19 years ago. Beale died on November 22 of a suspected heart attack. He was 57 years old.

His legacy comprises 43 original stage plays; nearly 300 television drama episodes; two seasons of radio drama; 600 poems; 32 books, mainly novels; and countless television commercials.

Popular roots plays, including Unda Mi Nose, Bashment Granny, Granny Rule, Di Driver, Courthouse Drama, The Plummer, Ova Mi Dead Body, and Di Politician, are credited to Beale with whom Nicholson worked on many projects. His fondest memories are the times they were on tour.

“We were on the road a lot with the play Ova Mi Dead Body. He created two characters — two old people and when we finished the show, people would be backstage asking for them and they never realised that we [the actors] were wearing make-up,” Nicholson recalled.

“During the time we were on the road he was always working, always coming up with new ideas and new characters to bring to life. He always had a new plot, he never stopped working. Even when we got to the hotel room from a show, he was already working on the next play,” he continued.

Nicholson, who in 2017 received a Badge of Honour for his 27 years of service to the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, believes roots theatre is here to stay and expects it to stand the test of time.

“I don't know if roots theatre can end or die,” he said. “It will always live on, there has even been a joining of roots theatre and commercial theatre. His [Beale's] body of work will always be there and actors both young and old will continue to perform his plays. Personally, I am hoping to see the younger generation bring his works to life. When a playwright dies, his work does not die with him, they are left behind,” he continued.

At the time of his passing, Beale was working on two new plays: Rasta Wedding Proposal and Melcita And The Plummer.

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