Black Swan staring d’bi Young Anitafrika, opening at Obsidian Theatre. Afro-futuristic exploration of the black womb as a dance floor. Feminist rebel ting. Choreography is aggressive and urgent; crotch grabs with slick cocoa butter assisted body rolls under dim light. Ear splitting djembe pulses for every flick of the rump. A long libbed sister balances on a her tippy toes at the end of the stage. She’s about to fall into us. Her body contorts gruesomely and springs backwards. A single black feather lazily floats where she once stood…
My fever dream passes; I’ve arrived. Luminato Festival describes itself as being “conceived to shine a spotlight on Toronto as a culturally vibrant and globally connected city rich in creativity.” The more vague and generic an organization’s commitment to diversity, the more likely said organization actually just promotes white supremacy. Classic smokescreen.
Swan Lake, directed by Michael Keegan-Dolan. Directors notes say, “Don’t be afraid of the dark.” One might wonder, why in casting the piece he choose to avoid places in the world that receive more than 8 hours of sunlight a day
Getting ahead of myself. A peruse through the program reveals intensely European training. Cast and crew hailing from schools that start with “Conservatoire” and end in “exclusive.” Some real hoity-toity shit.
Promotional photo has a guy in a tracksuit resting on cinder blocks. Feathered ingenue in background. So this production is supposed to be a… remix? Reinterpretation for sure. Re entry not allowed so gotta stick it through.
White swans. White people.
Show starts with Walter White (Mikel Murfi) tied to a post tripping out centre stage. Dude is in his underwear, apparently hot off the molly. An orchestra plays at the skill of Juilliard. Mary Bernecutt weaves with her Cello and the occasional vocal harmony.
Jimmy O’Reilley (Alex Leonhartsberger) is suffering from an extreme case of failure to launch. Looks like a heroin addict trying to chasse the dragon. Lives in a trailer park near a lake, and voted for Doug Ford. Mom wants him to GTFO. As Chris Tucker so eloquently put it, “when you in High School you are your momma’s baby. But when you graduate you that nigga walking around the house.” Jimmy has been that nigga for a while now.
Cue whacky scheme to get laid. Mom invites every woman in town, but Jimmy decides he wants to rape White Swan (Rachel Porier).
Seth Rogen movie party type scene; alcohol fueled polka dance, pedestrian hand motions somehow evoke tiki torch bearing dads. And then a a group rape.
A teacher goes all lolita on one of his students. You guessed it, rape.
Production is very pro violence against women. The old white dude of the cast, Murfi is given droning monologue after droning monologue as if we’ve all just forgiven Kevin Spacey. So White Swan is just not gonna rise up and take her dark form? She needs to tell her creepy teacher to “back up off [her], cuz [she] don’t fuck with no broke niggas!” Disempowering much.
Swan Lake, with not a black swan in sight. The entire cast would pass the paper bag test with flying colors. Fake diversity says what?
Outdated, white, patriarchal themes. Vanilla topping on plain ice-cream.
Show is ending. Feathers from dead swans are liberally thrown into the air; manifestation of the white privilege they all enjoy. Grotesque spectacle for its own sake, can’t lie was sorta cool looking.
None of the feathers reach my black ass. The white swans in the audience give a standing ovation. Luminato needs to remove the superficial land acknowledgement in the program and replace it with a casting call for performers whose ancestors were actual swans.