By EWART WALTERS
When Maud Fuller was around, you knew. She did not have to be in immediate sight; you still knew. Blessed with a voice that had experienced lifetime encounters with a grater and a microphone, the irrepressible Maud Fuller employed it with astounding success.
Maud was a graduate of Merl Grove High School where, under the tutelage of the great dramatist and actress, Carol Morrison, later the wife of Neville Dawes, she first demonstrated her love for drama and dance. She also taught at Merl Grove and was then able to do even more with the dramatic arts.
Maud first hit the national consciousness on the national stage at the Ward Theatre in 1957 as a member of the cast of the Little Theatre Movement’s Pantomime, Busha Bluebeard. As cast members of the pantomime some of the best times were not those on stage in front of the footlights and a large live audience. No, some of the best times were the intervals backstage between rehearsals when Fitz Weir would bring bags of Jamaica’s best patties from Golding’s Bakery on Charles Street, and jokes and stories were told and advice given. There, Maud reigned supreme, dispensing sage advice to the younger ones, male and female. No one escaped her strictures.
And she was a proper lady, thank you; no hanky-panky for her. There was an occasion when the women were instructed to wear shorts to a certain rehearsal. Maud took the instructions in unaccustomed silence. When she turned up she was wearing a garment that left everything to the bewildered imagination, for it was the baggiest pair of floral bloomers you ever saw.
That pantomime was perhaps the best launching site for the woman we have come to know and love. For that pantomime was the first truly Jamaican pantomime and it featured a galaxy of Jamaicans whose names became well known not only in theatre but across the broader national stage.
Yes, there were Louise Bennett-Coverley and Ranny Williams and the ebullient rising comedian, Charles Hyatt. But there were also on that stage, together for the first time, people like the playwrights Trevor Rhone and Louis Marriott; dancer and choreographer Rex Nettleford; dancer Joyce Campbell; actors Keith Amiel, Karl Binger, Tony Henry, Leonie Forbes, Ewart Walters, Lee Gordon, David Ebanks, Fitz Weir and Gervais Clarke; singer Joyce Lalor, and dancers Norma Stanley, Marguerite Miller and Denise Mair – people who would go on to make national and international impact in various fields of endeavour.
And Maud was pretty much in the forefront of that group. She went with most of that pantomime cast to Trinidad in 1958 and appeared again in the 1958 and ’59 pantomimes. By this time she had struck up a closer relationship with both Rex and Miss Lou with whom she maintained a lifetime of friendship, being Rex’s point person in Canada for the National Dance Theatre Company and its activities here.
Her islandwide personality burst forth with the arrival of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. One of its early shows was the hugely popular Lou and Ranny Show, with Miss Lou and Ranny as the leads, and Tony Henry and Maud in supporting roles. Staged in the Regal Cinema in Cross Roads, the show was beamed live across Jamaica by the JBC, and Maud thrived through her persona, Liza.
Somehow, Toronto was to find itself the home for both Maud and Miss Lou. As an alumnus of the UWI, when the University needed a foothold in Toronto, Maud sprang into action and formed a Toronto alumnae chapter. So active was she in this regard that it drew special praise from former Vice-Chancellor Sir Philip Sherlock, who admiringly called her “Hurricane Maud”.
One of the songs that Maud learned for that Busha Bluebeard pantomime was Louse Bennett’s Evening Time. It became quite popular and is sung today by many schools and choral groups.
And so we say today:
“Evening time, Maud
Work is over, now is evening time
Ress yuhself at ease…”
This tribute was first read at Maud Fuller’s funeral on Saturday.