"Da Kink in My Hair' by Trey Anthony
Produced by TO LIVE and Soulpepper at Toronto's Bluma Appel Theatre
From TO Live and Soulpepper Theatre comes a celebratory 20th anniversary of the very popular ‘’da Kink in my Hair’ by Trey Anthony. A wild celebration of proud black women includes a series of soliloquies, brash choreography, heart-rending stories and burn-the-house-down gospel numbers.
Choosing to explore over a half dozen serious ills of society, seems too large a task to cover in just two acts. But it does hold together – the leitmotif of black hair is the focus for the deeper richness of this black female community and the joys and horrors they sometimes share. All of this is driven by a cast of ten vibrant and multi-talented performers.
Set in little Jamaica in Toronto’s west Eglinton community, Novelette runs her hair salon as she sees fit. Played with sass, Ordena Stephens-Thompson reprises her central role from the spin-off television series. Even with a circus-like atmosphere where women and their stories fly about the store, Novelette is all business and all heart. The play is structured through a series of soliloquies, each followed by a rousing musical number reflecting the personal story. Ms. Stephens-Thompson orchestrates the cycle of stories acting almost as a Greek chorus observing the colourful lives of her customers.
The production is sparked by the ostentatious (in a good way) choreography of Jaz ’Fairy J’ Simone and the boldness of Rachel Forbes’ costumes. The dancing is erotic to the extreme – these women are fine with their bodies – both the beauty and the difficulties. These opposing extremes mirror their lives and their stories.
The most powerful of the monologues comes from d’bi.young anitafrika as a young boisterous child who is dragged into the horrors of sexual abuse. Ms. anitafrika demonstrates her range as the innocent vivacious child, who loses her bright school uniform and becomes an angry philosopher of life. Equally emphatic is the life story of an older widower, Miss Enid, played magnificently by Satori Shakoor. She seeks to regain her enthusiasm for life as she comically pines for the attention of a new beau (who turns out to be well over eighty.) Other soliloquies include issues of professional inequality, random violence and race.
Miss Enid’s soliloquy blends into one of the most rousing numbers – a gospel celebration of women with energy and dreams. Another highlight is ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’ with equally impressive choreography.
Clearly, this is a production not for the weak-hearted. Strong sexual content and the darkest images of societal horrors abound, but do not weigh down the play. Self-image and all its ills are looked at with force and honesty. The spasmatic joys of life also break through engineered both by the vivacity of this cast and the creativity of Weyni Mengesha’s direction.
Playful contemporary references update the witty dialogue such as a crack about Kanye (what’s his name.) Novelette ends her exhausting day by sinking into her chair and pulling off her beautiful wig. No one is surprised by her comfort in revealing her real self. As she observes and tends to her staff and patrons and the roller coaster of emotions, we are reminded of reality when she philosophizes “I’m a hairdresser, not a magician.”
‘’da Kink in my Hair’ by Trey Anthony
Performers: Olunike Adeliyi, d’bi.young anitafrika, Alana Bridgewater, Tamara Brown, Tiffany Deriveau, Shakura Dickson, Miranda Edwards, Chelsea Russell, Satori Shakoor, Ordena Stephens-Thompson
Director: Weyni Mengesha
Choreographer: Jaz ‘Fairy J’ Simone
Costume design: Rachel Forbes
Music director and composer: Corey Butler
The production runs through December 23, 2022.
Tickets at: soulpepper.ca