Review: Obsidian Theatre and Soulpepper present "Oraltorio: A Theatrical Mixtape"

Oraltorio.jpg

Paul Love

  • Associate Toronto Critic

It’s not too often that I find myself sitting in a theatre, moments before the curtain rises, and I am not really sure what it is I’m about to see, which is an exhilarating feeling. The parenthetical “A Theatrical Mixtape” gives a bit of a hint of what’s to come, but it still wasn’t enough to prepare me for the incredible sonic ride I was taken on moments later: Two young Black women — B-Girl and the DJ — growing up in Toronto struggle with their identity and heritage, navigating their way forward through an exploration of their social and cultural history, presented as a heady mixture of singing and spoken word poetry connected and surrounded by a soundscape of music, audio clips, and sound effects.

B-Girl is played by Motion — playwright, screenwriter, emcee, and poet. Motion takes on the personas of a young girl, an old preacher man, and many other characters in between, presenting short scenes depicting the deplorable treatment of Black people and women throughout history — singing, shouting, talking, and dancing her way through with a performance that is powerful and riveting.

Occasionally speaking but mainly weaving her auditory magic at the turntables is DJ L’Oqenz, a producer, composer, sound designer, and (of course) DJ. DJ L’Oqenz creates an all-permeating atmosphere of sound and music that generates and amplifies the themes of struggle, inequality, and injustice, matching perfectly with Motion’s efforts.

Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu stages the production well, maintaining a frenetic pace by keeping things in motion, except in the few instances where the action is ground to a halt, making those moments all the more effective as a result. André Du Toit’s lighting design effectively connects with the sound and story, creating the pulsing atmosphere of a club, the menace of power-mad law enforcement, and the chaos of an urban shootout, among other things.

If you’re looking for a stage production that tells its story as much through music and sound as it does through dialogue, let these two incredible performers take you on their journey in Oraltorio: A Theatrical Mixtape.

Photo of (L-R) DJ L’Oqenz and Motion provided by Cesar Ghisilieri.

Show Details

Oraltorio: A Theatrical Mixtape is being staged until October 20, 2018 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, in Toronto’s beautiful Distillery District.

Showtimes are at 8:00 pm Tuesday to Saturday with some 2:00 pm matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

The show is approximately 75 minutes, with no intermission.

More details are available at www.soulpepper.ca.