Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: (Toronto) The Art of Traditional Head-Tying

It's Not You It's Me
by Jason Booker
A solo show with multiple characters structured around a classroom lesson. A lesson taught by Rosie when she returns home to Dominica to pass on her knowledge of head-tying, which she picked up at her granny’s feet. Rosie observes how unkempt her granny’s grave is; she notices how the young women of today are not interested in observing tradition or conducting themselves in the old ways.

In this culturally specific show, written and performed by Kanika Ambrose, the situation sounds promising though it doesn’t reach out from the stage to captivate the audience. The performer creates diverse characters but often one-dimensional or stereotypical. And unfortunately there is a lot – and I mean a lot – of repetition in the script: some elements are repeated four or five times, like Rosie scrubbing her granny’s grave, or invitations to tell her story coming from different people and places, or she explains that she is late although the audience just saw why. If the script was pared down just a bit, more formally structured – maybe stay in the classroom until the story bursts forth from Rosie and she has to illustrate it with the other characters, or to only use scene breaks when the play jumps from one week of classes to the next - it could be a tight 50-minute show with a clear message. 
Nonetheless, the audience in attendance loved the show. They recognize themselves and their families and neighbours on the stage and laughed when they were meant to. So, although it didn’t ring true for this reviewer, The Art of Traditional Head-Tying does have an eager and underrepresented audience.

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