Review: 'Da Kink in My Hair' at the Max Bell Theatre

Vicki Trask 

  • OnStage Calgary Critic

On Saturday September 17th, I attended the matinee performance of Da Kink in My Hair, written by Trey Anthony. I’d heard about this show before but I knew nothing about it until I saw that it was coming to Calgary. This two-act show tells the story of seven women in a Caribbean hair salon in Toronto, revealing their inner pain and heartache as the wondrous hairdresser Novelette brings forth their well-guarded secrets. 

The premise is very simple: women enter Letty’s Hair Salon looking for a new hairdo and a sense of family. When Novelette touches their hair, she can tell everything they’re keeping hidden. As she says when she welcomes the audience into her salon: “If you want to know a woman, a black woman, touch her hair…that is where we carry everything – all our hopes, our dreams, our pain.” For the next two hours, we’re transported, wholly and completely. If you take anything away from this review it’s that I was moved. 

A combination of song and text introduce actress (and playwright) Trey Anthony – along with her fabulous girls – to this open, honest world.

Marion J. Caffey’s direction AND choreography are skillfully combined with Renee Clark’s musical direction from the very beginning, telling every woman’s story with just a few words. As each actress stood up and revealed their truth, I felt a connection, not necessarily to their stories but to their desire to let it all go; having that permission to be free in the safety of the theatre. Powerful emotions were evoked on that stage and I hope you’ll feel it too. 

And I hope you do get out to see this show at some point in their life; I am so grateful I spent the afternoon at the Max Bell Theatre. 

Each character had such a unique and yet familiar story to tell, I guarantee you will find a connection with the emotion brought out in their performances.

Tamara Brown plays Patsy, a Christian mother, seemingly stoic and prudish but keeping her pain hidden inside. She is the first – but not the last – to leave the salon a changed woman. Her monologue (and this story is portrayed mainly through a series of monologues) stole my breath but prepared me for the oncoming heartbreak. I was not prepared enough. 

We’re next introduced to Suzy’s story, a conflicted young mother played by Rae-Anna Matiland, a tale I never thought I would hear in 2016 but it spoke so poignantly to the times we are living in now (and even back in 2001 when the play premiered). So much has changed and yet, so little. 

Lennette Randal plays tired business woman Sherelle who falls to her knees under the pressure of being a black woman in a white man’s world. Listen to her words and tell me your heart doesn’t ache. Mine did. This was the first moment in the show when I sat forward in my seat and couldn’t take my eyes off of the woman pouring her soul onto the floor.

Miss Enid, played so warmly by Brenda Phillips, had the audience in an uproar reminding them that a woman, no matter her age, still has sass and life to give. I thank you, Brenda, for sharing your talent with us. I smiled, and laughed, and forgot the troubles of the world from the moment you stepped on the stage.

The Hollywood starlet who opens act two, played by Krystle Chance, stole my heart. A woman pursuing her dreams and fighting tooth and nail to get what she wants, while living in an environment she never expected to struggle against. I found Krystle’s performance of Sharmaine to be honest and powerful without preaching or belittling. So strong.

Allison Edwards-Crewe’s performance as Nia was, in a word, purposeful. Every word she said, every biting tone, spoke to the audience about the agony in her life, a quiet pain we didn’t see until she was in that chair. I forgot who this woman had been for all of act one and simply saw a hurting daughter, crying out for love. I was moved to walk onto that stage and hug her for the pain she’d gone through; loving the comfort that Novelette brought to her – and to all the women who walked through her door. 

Last and, oh my god, not least, was Virgilia Griffith’s performance as Stacy-Anne. The audience fell silent as she told her story and I had to look away as she spoke. I would describe my experience with Stacy-Anne as soulful and heartbreaking; I was moved to tears by her story and the power behind it. I applaud you, Virgilia, you have pierced my frozen heart with your portrayal of this lonely girl. 

I love that this cast is so diverse without being so purposefully unique. It is very much a story of women sharing their stories rather than ranting and raving about the hardships in their lives. I am happy for that and moved by the honesty in these words. 

Da Kink in My Hair runs until October 1st at the Max Bell Theatre. I sincerely hope, you can get out to see this show. If I could, I would go back again and again.

Photo: Trey Anthony (centre) and the cast of 'da Kink in my Hair, photo by Trudie Lee.