30 minutes in…
I don’t get it.
We must be at least 30 minutes into this play (or so it feels) and the black woman on stage, performing her well-reviewed one-woman show, is wearing a horrendously bright blond wig and a pink dress that’s even brighter.
What is the Fringe Festival? Every year the Fringe delivers an eclectic mix [..} of theatrical offerings. Presenting live theatre in an informal, accessible and inexpensive environment, the Fringe strives to break down traditional boundaries between audiences and artists […]. Audiences are invited to experience the work of emerging artists and seasoned veterans. http://www.vancouverfringe.com
I didn’t bother to read the play synopsis prior to seeing Brown Girl in the Ring. My only play experience has been a handful of high school productions of whatever (better left forgotten. I was even IN one. *Shudder*), one Oscar Wilde play (The Importance of Being Earnest in grade 10) and seeing several TV ads for The Lion King (I really need to see it one day). With such a vast pedigree of play watching (and wanna watch it) experience, I didn’t bother to read the synopsis for this one. A friend was excited to see it, which was enough for me, and of course I assume a play is a play, right?
It’s almost amusing how often my assumptions are incorrect.
As the sole actress on stage sings the title of her play in a high pitched, shrill voice: “There’s a brown girl in the ring, tra-la-la-la-la-la-la” my seatmate and I exchange glances and I barely muster a shrug as I fight off a huge laugh brimming at the back of my throat.
But aren’t we supposed to laugh? Within the first few lines of the play the actress had audience members around me guffawing at her satirical jokes. I glance around at my immediate group to see if they’re getting the humour I’m clearly missing. I feel like I’ve arrived at a test I forgot to study for and now have to BS my way through to a passing grade. I relax and breathe a sigh of relief when I note my friends were as dumbstruck as I was. Even more so in some cases (double phew!).
4 Stars.Edmonton Journal: The perfect play for anyone wanting to know what the Fringe is essentially all about. – See Magazine, Edmonton
I didn’t understand this review until after seeing the play. This review might not actually be as glowing as I initially assumed. Are those 4 stars out of 5 or 10? Hmmmm.
1 hour+ in…
Back on stage, the actress has just finished talking to her gloved hand as though it were a real person and is now slowly dancing and twirling in a circle, like the ballerina in a little girl’s jewellery box. It’s both eerie and nonsensical. I pat my purse on my lap and secretly envy my beautiful blackberry phone buried deep within, as it gets to hide its face and silently escape this whole scene. As if mocking my plight, my blackberry suddenly starts to vibrate, a sound that’s magnified a hundred times in the small, intimate theatre (Oops. Meant to put that on silent. Tee hee.). Fortunately, the actress doesn’t hear it. Unfortunately this means I’m not asked to leave the theatre (should have put the dang thing on extra ‘kick me out of theatre’ loud).
2 hours later(?)…
When the play finally comes to an end I feel as though it lasted for hours. Finally freeing my cellphone from its leather cage, I realize the play was only 45minutes long.
Afterward, I read the program to get a better idea about whatever the heck it was I just endured watched. My assumption is (and you know how accurate those usually are) that the actress is playing the role of a descendant of the royal lineage -Queen Charlotte Sophia – whose actual African ethnic background was well hidden from the world. As her African heritage is often overlooked and not well known (news to me!) this play might be an examination of what it was like to grow up in an environment where you’re told you’re not who you see in the mirror (hence the crazy and her requests for poutine n’ sushi at restaurants and how she’s a descendant of Dom Pérignon and the Moet family?? Right?) So in any case…
I still don’t get it.
I always wanna spread the positive vibes so here they are:
1. A 45 minute well acted monologue (she was, no doubt, connected to the character she was playing)
2. Creativity – an interesting take on a lesser known bit of history (lesser known here in Canada @ least)
“Brown Girl in the Ring” was playing @ the Vancouver Fringe Festival and touring Canada. If you’re still interested in seeing this play for yourself (hey, I recognize that my review ain’t “glowing”), please check out the actress’ website @ http://valeriemason-john.com/