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Laff It Off is Crammed With Laughter

Simone Cooper Clarke and Mark Martin in Laff it Off

Oliver Mair’s musical comedy revue Laff It Off is, in the main, made of pretty funny stuff. Crammed with almost two dozen sketches that throw satirical punches at almost every sector of Jamaican life, the play is generally amusing and on more than a few occasions, down right hilarious. 

As is the usual tradition of comedy revues, Laff It Off declares its intentions from the opening song, it’s going to follow the ethos of the Jamaican proverbs ‘tek kin teet kibba heartbun’ and ‘tek bad tings mek laugh’ that is, laugh about the terrible. And that it does. 

Laff It Off pokes fun at the folly of Cash Plus remixed with the more contemporary lottery scams, there is police ignorance and corruption, the recent Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) elections, the high cost of electricity, and looting as a profession.

Craig McNally (right) as Damion Crawford tries to avoid crucifixion by wooing the rabbleYet, while Laff It Off spreads around the mockery, politics and politicians from both sides of the orange and green colour divide get the puma’s share of the mockery. Additionally, it is from politics that the play mines some of the best pieces. The politicians who make appearances in the production include KD Knight, Peter Phillips, Damion Crawford, Lisa Hannah, Olivia ‘Babsy Grange’ and former Prime Ministers Michael Manley, Edward Seaga, PJ Patterson, Bruce Golding and current PM, Portia Simpson Miller. Indeed, Andrew Holness should feel rather slighted for being left out of the group. 

Yet the shining star among these is the parody homage to the legal skills of former Member of Parliament and Queens Counsel, KD Knight. The sketch, easily the most hilarious of the production, is set against the backdrop of Knight’s extrication of DJ Busy Signal from extradition charges (much to the chagrin of the incarcerated Buju Banton and Vybz Kartel) is executed to the the Beetle’s ‘Let It Be’, making the mock sincerity of its tone even more hilarious. 

Simone Clarke Cooper and Patria-Kaye Aarons square off as two divasThe parliamentary duel between MP Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange and Minister Lisa Hannah also makes the list of high points in the production and serves as an indictment for the often lamentable behaviour of politicians in parliament. 

Like the sketches within, Laff It Off has an uneven cast but has sufficient good parts to offset the weaker elements. Mark Martin, who shows himself to be a fine comedic actor with great timing, and a sense of nuance and physical control that a few of the younger actors could benefit from. Martin was particularly delightful in the KD Knight sketch as well as Officer Spellman, the semi-literate and corrupt policeman. 

Simone Clarke Cooper and Patria-Kaye Aarons also deliver solid and enjoyable performances. Akeem Mignott, who appears to be on his way to being a theatrical staple, delivers a fair, and occasionally, commendable performance. Rodney Campbell waivers delivering best when he does an imitation of Mutabaruka. Interestingly, although engaging, Campbell sounds more like and imitation of the Twin of Twins parody of Mutabaruka than he does of the barefooted one himself. 

Rodney Campbell play Mutabaruka interviewing a tearful Mr. Vegas played by Roshane 'Dutty' BerryDirector Craig McNally also makes a few appearances as does writer and producer Oliver Mair both with decent results. Mair’s Edward Seaga is actually quite hilarious. Christina Starz delivers a fair performance, although her chin and tongue rings detracted from a few sketches as they simply didn’t fit with the character. Dalton Spence, however should never have been allowed on the stage.

The production also provides Rushaine ‘Dutty’ Berry with his theatrical debut, and it is generally a disappointing one. Though the vlogger managed to ignite Jamaicans with his hilarious sketches about Tessanne Chin and NBC’s The Voice, devoid of real theatrical skills, he often falls flat on the stage.

Patria-Kaye Aarons make a convincing, always travelling PM Portia Simpson MillerTo a degree, Laff It Off does try to tackle too much which tugs at the seams. A few of the weaker pieces could have easily been cut and others strengthened. The play could have also benefitted from greater cohesion, which was particularly glaring in the absence of a set, instead of just set pieces as needed in each piece. In a similar vein, staging a few pieces front-of-curtain, detracted from the overall quality of the production. 

McNally also has a bit of a way to go as a director, particularly in understanding when to constrain a run-away sketch. Even so, he does a fair job with Laff It Off, which is a far better production than the lamentable Over The Rainbow.

In the end, there is nothing in the production that you can’t just laugh off, and it might well leave you chuckling as you go through the door.

The production is currently playing at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts and continues through to August 10, 2014.