'Boy Blue' to 'Boops' to 'Dancehall Queen' - Audrey Reid an excellent fit role as 'Marcia'

Audrey Reid makes her entrance a few seconds into the 1997 movie, Dancehall Queen, pushing a cart laden with drinks and other items for sale over a slope towards the camera, then to her spot in the competitive bustle of informal Jamaican street trade - higgling.

And while Chevelle Franklyn, in her then secular singing days, sings in the title song's chorus, "she is the Dancehall Queen for life", it is Reid who goes from Marcia the higgler to the 'mystery girl' who wins the dancehall queen contest in the rags to royalty - and riches - tale.

It is a role that has been imprinted on the public imagination, even as Reid continues to have a very active career on the stage, her latest play being Frenemy with Oliver Samuels and Volier Johnson, currently on tour in the US, (interrupted by Hurricane Irma), before heading to England for another production in November.

"If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me about the part two to Dancehall Queen," Reid said to The Sunday Gleaner.

It was in England that her journey to landing the female lead role in Dancehall Queen began.

"I was in England to work with Blue Mountain Theatre. We went there in 1991 with (the play) Boy Blue," Reid said. She was asked to return to do Boops, the Ginger Knight production which Reid describes as "the play that gave me my name on the stage."

The play was scheduled to run for two months, and due to demand, ended up at about twice that, Reid saying "London was basically my home ... . It was sold out as soon as it was advertised". Other venues had to be added to the Hammersmith Apollo.

The promoter got a call, asking for Reid to audition for a movie being done by Chris Blackwell, named Dancehall Queen. Reid, whose mother was sick at the time in Jamaica, was not enthused, as her theatre pals would sometimes make prank calls, saying a famous director like Steven Spielberg wanted her for a role.

It was real, though, and she did an audition, which co-director Rick Elgood attended. Even before doing the lines, Reid made a good impression.

"When I stepped in, the height they were looking for, the skin tone, the background, it was all Audrey Reid," she said. "When I looked at the description, it was me."

A Jamaican audition was required and Reid was actually going to Jamaica the following week. Another audition was done there, but Reid was not the only one going for the role.

"It came down to four of us," Reid said, who has never known who the three other actresses were. After a Monday audition, she was told the decision would be made by Saturday. "On Thursday, I got a call that said 'you are Marcia, you are the Dancehall Queen'," Reid said.

The movie was duly made, and Reid says, "Up to now I am excited about Dancehall Queen."

When she was doing it, she had no idea it would be so big, not least of all because she did not see the full movie until the premiere in Kingston.

"At the end, people stood up and applauded," she said. Although one Jamaican reviewer was caustic, slaughtering it over two pages, another reporter told Reid on the night that she had done "a phenomenal job".

"It is real," Reid said of the role - and after the film was out, she promptly moved on to another play.


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