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Samson and Di Liar: A Humourous Take on Homelessness
The homeless who ‘litter’ the streets of Kingston are often seen as little more than society’s flotsam cluttering our gullies and sidewalks. They are obstacles to be avoided and certainly not smelt. The comedy Samson and Di Liar, starring two strong comedic actors Tony ‘Paleface’ Hendriks and Ricky Rowe, gives us a chance to peer into the lives of two such people. The play presents some sparkling moments of humour and now in its second week, it is tighter and funnier and brimming with dramatic potential.
Written by Winston ‘Bello’ Bell, Tony ‘Paleface’ Hendriks and Ricky Rowe, the latter two who also star in the two-hander, Samson and Di Liar is set on the streets of Kingston. Produced and directed by Scarlett Beharie, the play presents a moment in the life of two homeless men whose lives have taken different directions and converged under a bus stop in New Kingston where they battle for this prime piece of public real estate.
To abuse a cliche, Samson (Hendriks) and Ears Ring (Rowe) are as different as night and day, though their situation is the same. Samson is a white Jamaican who was deported from the UK to land on the streets of Kingston friendless and with no family willing to claim him. He is crotchety and lonely and obsessed with keeping the few possessions from his past. Ears Ring has almost never travelled beyond the streets of Kingston, with the exception of one regrettable trip to Spanish Town. He has nothing to his name but a few pots and countless failed relationships.
While Samson is verbose and tends to use his adeptness with English as a weapon against Ears Ring, who is less familiar with English, but is linguistically wily with his Jamaican. Samson backs up his language with physical intimidation while Ears Ring recognizes that a small stature can get you through life’s nooks and crannies. So, while Samson tries to hold on to his pride even if it means starvation, Ears Ring hones the skills of deceit which ensure his survival.
Along with their fight for the bus stop the two men also soon find that they share a dream for musical stardom which helps to bring them together and helps them to move toward friendship and the idea of creating and staging an opera. As such, although it is not a musical, Samson and Di Liar is filled with music, in the main they are funny, scatologically rich ditties, that you may, unfortunately, find yourself singing as you head home.
Both Rowe and Hendriks deliver reasonably strong performances, although Hendriks suffers from moments of over-acting and both could benefit from a stronger directorial hand.
This foray into homelessness presents with it some delightful moments of humour. Yet, the seething underbelly of Samson and Di Liar is filled with serious sociological issues, some of which it explores, others which it barely brushes up against.
The characters are a little uneven with Samson having a far more developed backstory than Ears Ring. Indeed, the writing is the biggest drawback for this piece. It is hampered by plotholes and over-simplifications. Additionally, while it is engaging, the plot is a colour-by-numbers buddy comedy, and the play has rich comedic and dramatic potential that the script ignored and from which the society could benefit, as it makes references to race, class, sexuality and the physical abuse heaped upon the homeless.
At the end of it all, Samson and Di Liar is a decent comedy. It rests easily somewhere in the middle. It is not brilliant, but it is certainly not bad. Samson and Di Liar is currently playing at the Little Little Theatre in Kingston. It closes on Sunday, September 20, 2015.