'She Mami Wata and the Pxssywitch Hunt'
Soulpepper Theatre's AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 PLAYS Series
Soulpepper Theatre boldly with its ‘Around the World in 80 Plays’ Series with ‘She Mami Wata and the PxssyWitch Hunt’ by d’bi.young anitafrika. This talented performer also directs and performs in this one-person audio play.
Originally performed on stage at Theatre Passe Muraille in 2016, the play follows the lives of four friends in present day Jamaica as they navigate the forces of love, sexuality, homophobia, gender bias, and violence. The strength of this production is the performance itself as Ms. Anitafrika, who is Jamaican, uses a great range of voices, characters, and colloquial language to immerse us in the politics of the island nation.
The intertwining lives of friends Niki, Michael, Everdon and Kizzy are examined from their childhood youth to the rigours of adulthood. Sexuality becomes a major theme as they begin with playful wonderment and then move towards more complex erotic and homosexual love. The politics of colonialism and the severity of homophobia are examined during their journeys. The politics and hypocrisy of their church connections is another factor in the story. The contrasts of youthful innocence and adult experience, conservative church life and the eroticism of a gay strip club all become part of the lives of the characters.
Towards the end, they must all confront their lives and relationships and disperse the hypocrisy.
Ms. Anitafrika is a marvelous performer with an extraordinary vocal range of characters. Her heavy Jamaican accent opens the story along with song and percussion. Her repertoire includes diverse characters such as a highly evangelical pastor, saucy strippers, young children, and bureaucratic politicians. The vocal choreography moves easily from a children’s playground to a rousing church service to a very irreverent night club. Two highlights include the lady announcer in the club with heavy erotic language and a very vague and bureaucratic voice announcing without passion the list of ugly homophobic laws.
This is not a linear narrative – it is more a series of interwoven scenes and layers of imagery. This creates a platform for delineating the ugly themes of slavery, colonization, homophobia, and racism. The questions of moral versus secular laws help to highlight these themes. Ms. Anitafrika is not timid about raising the issues of being black and homosexual in present day Jamaica.
As an audio only production, the sound designer is key. Mohammed Rowe applies both subtle and forceful elements to invigorate various scenes. Quiet ocean waves lather through many scenes which reflect the island nation. Church bells contrast the air horns and disco sounds of the strip club. The personification of a final thunderstorm startles the listener.
The title sets the contrast between the femaleness of a water god (a type of mother nature) and the erotica of a personal sexual lifestyle. Coming to terms with one’s own decisions and lifestyles is the ultimate goal of the main characters, and, probably, the playwright herself.
Director, performer and playwright – d’bi.young anitafrika
Sound designer – Mohammed Rowe
Audio producer – Gregory Sinclair
Audio engineer – Matt Rideout
Tickets at soulpepper.ca
Photo taken from soulpepper.ca.