Spotlight on Patrick Brown


Spotlight on Patrick Brown

By Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

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For nearly four decades, audiences have been treated to the work on stage and screen of writer Patrick Brown. Come National Heroes' Day he will be among the Jamaicans receiving national honours and awards.

Brown will be recognised with an Order of Distinction (officer class) for his contribution to theatre.

In his inimitable style, the characteristically shy Brown related to the Jamaica Observer that the award comes as a surprise.

“Those who know me well, know that I don't do this for the awards. But the truth is, it feels better than I thought it would, so I am pleasantly surprised and honoured at the same time,” he said.

Brown is the first to tell you he has had no formal training in writing, but that has not stopped him from penning some of the most memorable scripts in the history of modern Jamaican theatre. Yard 89, Yard 90 Frank the Freak, Ladies of the Night, Alligator High, Vibes, Diana, If There's A Will There's A Wife, Puppy Love and his Matey Chronicles — which is currently on stage at the Centrestage Theatre in New Kingston — are but some of the works to which he has treated audiences.

But for Brown, who is an engineer by training, his entry into writing happened rather serendipitously.

“While I was at University in Trinidad, I was the entertainment coordinator for Canada Hall. Each year there is a major show staged by Canada Hall. This event not only attracts students, but was a calendar event for the wider public and I was charged with finding entertainment for this variety show. I wrote a short dramatic piece which went over very well and was well received. That short play would later be expanded to a full length production, Cornflakes, which I produced and staged at the Barn Theatre years later on my return to Jamaica. It starred Rosie Murray, Clive “Uzu” Anderson, Calvin Foster, Hope Blake and was directed by Keith Noel.”

Despite this being his first script, Brown, upon reflection, believes he got bitten by the theatre bug during a visit to The Ward Theatre in downtown Kingston as a schoolboy at Kingston College.

“I was in fifth form and our Spanish teacher took a group of us to see a play called Roseslip and The Ward. I was just in awe of the experience, but there was also an air of familiarity. I kept thinking to myself 'I want to do that... I can do that'.”

Armed with his engineering degree, Brown went into the field. First, it was consultancy with a Kingston firm; then project management at the then National Development Agency and moved on to opening his own construction company handling a number of projects in the Corporate Area.

“For me, there is a similarity between engineering and theatre writing. Both start with an idea, which is then transferred to paper. In engineering there is a blueprint, and for theatre a script. The true test is watching what has been put to paper come to life,” explained Brown.

The Jamaican experience lies at the heart of Brown's script but there is an inextricable link to universal themes and stories, which broaden the appeal of his work. Over the years, through their production house Jambiz International with partners Lenford Salmon and Trevor Nairne, Brown has managed to carve out a niche in local theatre and exhibit the potential of local commercial theatre.

“When I came into theatre I wanted to reflect more familiar ideas. I have had no qualms about putting Jamaican stories on stage. Over the years, we have been successful as we have stressed that we must deliver new and fresh ideas. I tell my actors all the time, the vehicle is comedy, but we must make it fresh all the time to hold our audiences.”

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