Bouncin’ & misbehavin’

When too much is not enough


Trey Anthony cannot be faulted for to tackling a daunting number of big themes in her musical play ‘Da Kink In My Hair running as part of the Mirvish season at the Princess Of Wales Theatre. A mother’s hostility to her daughter’s lesbianism; the death of a black teenager from the viewpoint of his grieving mother; the excitement of an elderly woman’s newfound joy in eroticism; the sexual exploitation of a young immigrant child by a male family member and the complicit failure of the women surrounding her to stop the abuse. There is all this and more.

‘Da Kink In My Hair resembles nothing so much as an enthusiastic first novel. The playwright, pleased but surprised at being produced, includes every theme and obsession with which she is consumed, just in case this becomes both the first and the last chance she has to engage her audience.

Because these serious themes follow one after the other, the play loses some of its initial sense of fun and joy. A fine opening number in a romanticized African setting promises much. Giant hanging ropes of fabric, brilliantly coloured costumes, enthusiastic chorus work and well directed movement; everything seems set for big budget excitement.

After the big opening, though, there is an immediate contrast. We are taken to the Toronto hair stylist’s shop which will be the setting for the rest of the evening. Either the ideas or the size of the budget seem to have stalled at this point. From now on designer Julia Tribe is working magic with a lot of clever props rather than any more exciting coups of staging. Even those wonderful ropes, emblematic of the kinky hair of the title, are not used again in any meaningful way.

The set is pulled well forward near the lip of the stage, resulting in what seems to be an unnecessarily restricted performance space which is disappointing, especially since Fleurette S Fernando has come up with some simple yet effective choreography that is ideal for the dancing actors she is working with.

Cast member Weyni Mengesha, who wrote the music and lyrics, is also, most importantly, the show’s director. She has done an outstanding job in all respects, in particular with the integration of the musical interludes into the drama. For whatever reason, not enough of that music and those songs have been included in the production. They may have helped to better ensure the level of excitement stayed closer to the high point reached at the start.

As for the cast, there are a number of standouts in an otherwise superb group. Leading the ensemble is Anthony herself, in an outstanding performance of her own work. Ordena Stephens-Thompson as the grieving mother, Satori Shakoor in the role of feisty elder and especially d’bi young as the little girl, deserve special recognition.

 

*’Da Kink In My Hair at the Princess Of Wales (300 King St W) has been extended to Sun, Mar 6; call (416) 872-1212.

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Books, Culture, Theatre, Arts, Toronto, Fetish & Kink

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