salt.: how history fits on contemporary bodies

DICK-DAVENPORTWriter/performer Selina Thompson slams it in salt. (Photo by Dick Davenport)

At the beginning of her autobiographical solo show salt., Selina Thompson says, “I’m 28. I’m black. I’m a woman.” I’m 66, white, and a man and those realities will have a huge impact on how I interpret Thompson’s work.*

The realities of everyday racism still shock me, for instance. Near the top of salt., Thompson relates a story about her grandmother, who was told as a little girl—by her schoolteacher—that black people have darker skin because they are lazy and dirty in God’s eyes. Decades later, a little boy in a Bristol café points Thompson out as a nigger and, although she was born in Birmingham and lives in England, she still fields endless questions about where she is “really” from.

The concreteness of this material made it some of the most affecting in the script for me.

Then, in a way, Thompson sets out to experience where she is “really” from. The body of salt. is about a journey that she took in 2013: to explore the history of slavery and its impact on her life, she traveled by cargo ship from Belgium to Ghana, then on to Jamaica and back to the UK. [Read more…]

Prince Hamlet: the play’s the thing—sometimes

Bronwen-SharpDawn Jani Birley makes a compelling Horatio in Prince Hamlet. (Photo by Bronwen Sharp)

This Hamlet is like a priceless fabric with a lot of holes in it.

Director Ravi Jain has conceived and cast this production with refreshing inclusivity: the players are racially diverse, seven out of nine performers are women, there are multiple gender reversals in the casting, and the production is bilingual: Dawn Jani Birley, who is deaf, plays Hamlet’s friend, Horatio, and the story unfolds in both English and American Sign Language.

In many instances, the results are revelatory. Christine Horne’s Prince is the most original, the most mentally unstable, and by far the wittiest Hamlet I’ve seen. Jain and Horne establish the edge of craziness early: near the top of the show, when Hamlet sees his father’s ghost on the ramparts, Hamlet speaks the ghost’s lines, possessed by a kind of ecstasy. (I’m using male pronouns because the characters maintain their original gender identities.) [Read more…]

Reassembled, Slightly Askew is deeply weird—and generous

Shannon Yee's Reassembled, Slightly Askew is playing The Culture Lab as part of the PuSh Festival.

Reassembled Slightly Askew: your treatment awaits. (Photo by Stephen Beggs)

Reassembled, Slightly Askew provoked one of the most intense theatrical experiences I’ve had: deeply disorienting, often frightening. Was it worth it? Probably.

Written and produced by Shannon Yee, Reassembled, Slightly Askew explores Yee’s experience of acquired brain injury: symptoms, crisis, hospitalization, coma, treatments, and reemergence—changed.

The wild thing is that it all takes place inside your head. When you go, you enter the Culture Lab as part of an eight-person audience. There are eight hospital beds waiting for you. You take off your shoes, lie down on one of the beds and give yourself over. A nurse (Stephen Beggs) sets you up with a blindfold and headphones. You can’t see anything. [Read more…]

The Events will keep you riveted

Pi Theatre is presenting The Events as part of the PuSh Festival

Douglas Ennenberg and Luisa Jojic pour themselves into The Events.

I suspect that, on some level, many liberal Westerners are experiencing a more or less perpetual state of grief and dread. Donald Trump is in the White House. Institutions including the press and democracy itself are being eroded. On the political right wing and on the left—where we once looked for allies—tribalism is in vogue.

What’s a liberal to do? In a way, that’s the central question in playwright David Greig’s The Events. [Read more…]

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