Cast Iron

A Binaural Drama presented by Toronto's Factory and Obsidian Theatres

Dahlia Katz, and courtesy of Factory and Obsidian

Joe Szekeres

I had no idea what the term ‘binaural’ meant so I was pleased to see it defined on the Factory Theatre website.

Lisa Codrington’s ‘Cast Iron’ is billed as a binaural audio drama meaning that directional sound is used during the performance. To attain the full audio experience, the team at Factory and Obsidian recommend that listeners use headphones during the performance. I didn’t have headphones, so I had to rely on the earbuds through my iPhone.

More shortly about the reason why I strongly recommend future audiences to use headphones or ear buds especially to listen to ‘Cast Iron’.

From the Factory Theatre website: ‘Cast Iron’ follows Libya Atwell (Alison Sealy-Smith), a Barbadian immigrant, as she wields acerbic wit and humour in an attempt to appease the ghosts of her past. Alone in her Winnipeg nursing home, Libya receives an unexpected visitor from Barbados. Past repression resurfaces, until the tragedy that shaped her life spills from her soul.

As we can all recall at the heights of the lockdowns during the pandemic, some of the Toronto live theatres pivoted to online audio dramas so that theatre lovers could continue to turn to a form of artistic work to help cope with the strains of the time, to enjoy listening to artists tell a story, or to transport the listener (even if for a short time) out of the current world situation in which we all found ourselves. When I had the opportunity to begin listening to some audio dramas provided by Factory Theatre last year, for example, I simply used my desk top computer and turned up the sound even when it was advised to use headphones. I wasn’t certain if using ear buds would ruin the auditory experience for me.

I was wrong on that account.

Use earbuds or headphones if you can. They add a richness to the sound experience of the piece that I simply just closed my eyes and listen to the marvelous story telling of Ms. Sealy-Smith.

Sensitively and compassionately directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, ‘Cast Iron’ becomes a tale of dignity, grace, and humour thanks to the finely distinguished vocal work of Alison Sealy-Smith supported by the solid work of John Gzowski as Sound Designer and Composer. There were moments as I listened where the whipping Winnipeg winter sounds enveloped all around me and I shivered momentarily thinking about what will probably be coming our way here in Ontario very soon. There were also moments where I was transported to the Barbados sugar cane fields where I envisioned Libya walking through them.

Hearing these audio effects reminded me of the importance of sound when I attended ‘Blindness’ at The Princess of Wales in September.

Additionally, Libya begins to tell an unseen visitor in her nursing home room of a deciding factor that has remained with her for most of her life. She has never forgotten a rivalry between herself and her half-sister, Gracie, who was the more gregarious one. In telling this story, we also learn about the community’s belief and fear in ‘The Red Woman’ who will haunt her down on account of her relationship with Gracie and what ultimately occurs. Just listening to this intriguing tale of this Woman instilled some momentary fear and trepidation.

It did take me a few moments to accustom my ear to listen and to hear the musicality of the Barbadian dialect. One can follow along on the computer if he/she/they wanted to read the text while listening to the story. I chose not to do that but instead just follow the story aurally. I didn’t catch some moments but that didn’t distract me from the story at all.

Running Time: 70 minutes

‘Cast Iron’ by Lisa Codrington presented by Factory Theatre in collaboration with Obsidian Theatre

With Alison Sealy-Smith.

Directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu

Production Team: John Gzowski (Foley Artist, Sound Designer and Composer), Lola Gafaar (Assistant Director), Jacob Lin (Apprentice Sound Director), Emilie Aubin (Stage Manager)

Production to be performed live and streamed as a binaural drama November 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28 at 7:30 pm. Free tickets but you must register for a specific performance. For further information, please visit www.factorytheatre.ca or www.obsidiantheatre.com.

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