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Theatre Review -- Who knew grannie: a dub aria

22 Feb 2010

Who knew grannie
Andrea Scott, Joseph Jomo Pierre, Ordena, Miranda Edwards and Marcel Stewart perform a scene from the Obsidian Theatre Company/Factory Theatre World Premiere of ahdri zhina mandiela’s who knew grannie: a dub aria playing March 13 – April 4, 2010 in the Factory Mainspace Theatre, Toronto. Nicola Betts Photography.

Obsidian Theatre Company fittingly closes its landmark 10th anniversary season with the uplifting play, written and directed by ahdri zhina mandiela, who knew grannie: a dub aria. Currently playing at Factory Theatre until April 4th, who knew grannie recounts the tale of four cousins who reunite to reminisce and pay tribute to their beloved grandmother who has passed away.

Through effective uses of familiar Caribbean sounds, rhythm and lights, the audience is transported along on the wings of the proverbial sankofa bird into the cherished childhood memories of these characters.

Following the tradition of Jamaican dub poetry, who knew grannie: a dub aria brings onto the stage the power of the human voice and the agency of the African drum beat to recount a story of love, hope and family bonds.

Pioneered in the late 1960s and 1970s Jamaican music scene, dubs were originally created by manipulating tracks of original music to create new mixes through the use of improvisation. Dub poetry grew out of that, through spoken word poets such as Oku Onuora, to introduce the performance of Caribbean oral tradition over reggae rhythms. A dub aria is, in essence, a further derivation of this tradition, now found in theatre, where the reggae music is replaced by human voices and percussion.

In who knew grannie: a dub aria, we are introduced to the voices of five powerful characters portrayed wonderfully by: Miranda Edwards (Toronto the Good, The Madonna Painter) as likklebit, Ordena (The Real McCoy; ‘da kink in my hair; Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God) as grannie, Joseph Jomo Pierre (Born Ready; Pusha-Man; Hip-Hop Who Stole the Show) as tyetye, Andrea Scott (For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf; Omnium Gatherum; Kindness) as vilma and Marcel Stewart (Toronto the Good; Theatre of the Film Noir; MacBeth) as kris.

Regardless of its format, a story is always best told by drawing the audience in through familiar references and personal connections. Regardless on one’s cultural background, it’s hard to leave the theatre without reflecting back on one’s own relationship with a family elder.


who knew grannie: a dub aria is 80 minutes in length, with no intermission, and plays Tuesday – Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Factory Mainspace Theatre.

Single tickets run $15 - $35 (discounts for previews, seniors, students or theatre artists as well as groups of ten or more) and may be purchased online at www.factorytheatre.ca 24 hours a day, or by calling (416) 504-9971 or by visiting the Factory Theatre Box Office in person Tuesday through Saturday, 1 p.m. - 7 p.m., at 125 Bathurst Street (at Adelaide Street), Toronto. In addition, 3–play subscriptions, Pay-What-You-Can Sunday and a limited number of $10 RUSH tickets (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday) are available.


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