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Fringe Festival Review: word!sound!powah! My First 5-Star Review

d'bi young's word!sound!powah! is my first 5 star review at this year's Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival. What she brought to Theartre Passe Muraille today, was nothing less than her usual brilliance. Building on her previous works of blood.claat. and benu, word!sound!powah! (wsp) is the work-in-progress conclusion of her Sankofa trilogy. young's method of storytelling is called dub theatre, a form developed by her mother, Anita Stewart (two of her original pieces are featured in wsp) and her mentor, director/dub poet/b.current founder, ahdri zhina mandiela.

young plays several characters in this performance that deals with the political, economical and mental state of Jamaica 18 years after its independence from England in 1962. At the heart of young's work is the question of what has happened to the country's strong sense of self and pride. After all, this was the island where the Maroons staved off the Spanish and the British, that was emancipated from slavery long before the Americans, and where Independence promised so much for the country's modern future. As benu, young is representative of disenfranchised youth responding to the absolute lack of choices, jobs, and opportunities promised by politicians and those in authority. Through her interrogation by Constable Brown (also played by young) we are introduced to benu's allies in Poets in Solidarity, a group of young students and artists who have banded together to use the artistic power of words, sounds (music and verbal) and movement to fight back against marginalization.

young's transition from one character to the next is flawlessly fluid. From the charismatic, Poets in Solidarity leader, Bobus to St-st-Stammer, the poet with the unique protest style, to Peaches, the single mother looking for "employment", to the self-serving Prime Minister to benu and her grandmother, the spiritual Mugdu, you are never in doubt as to which character you are seeing. There is a moment in the performance where young's Constable Brown is particularly cruel in his interrogation of benu, but your mind never questions the fact that you are responding to one person playing two characters; you react only to the vision young has so clearly defined in your mind.

For those who may question this rating due to the fact that I know (and have worked for) d'bi, please go and see the show yourself before you yell "bias!" Let me say, firstly, that I am a hard person to get a perfect score from. Secondly, let me say that I would never insult any artist (friend or not) by saying their work deserved a positive review unless the work lived up to my high standards, and their talent.Rating: ***** 5/5 Stars

Theatre Passe Muraille (Mainspace)
16 Ryerson Avenue (1 block east of Bathurst, 1 block north of Queen)
Monday, July 5th, 5:00 pm
Tuesday, July 6th, 3:15 pm
60 Minutes
Warning: Language

$10 ($11 online). Cash only at the door. NO LATECOMERS. NO REFUNDS.
• Online at
• By Phone at 416-966-1062 or 1-866-515-7799
• In person (June 30 – July 11 only) at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street


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