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|Written by Wayne Current|
|Wednesday, 10 March 2010 00:00|
I wasn't sure what to expect from d'bi.young anitafrika's new work, blood.claat: one oomaan story, currently playing at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre as part of the Great Canadian Theatre Company's regular season. The description was intriguing: blood.claat is a new form of theatre called "Dubbin theatre" or theatre inspired and told through dub poetry. d'bi.young aspires to use orality, rhythm, "personal is political" ideology, "sacredness and integrity" as tools for social transformation.
blood.claat is a well-crafted piece of theatre that tells the story of 15 year-old Mudgu and her life in a very poor section of Kingston, Jamaica. Mudgu in many ways is a typical teenager: she loves dance hall reggae, is in love with a local DJ, plays netball, and frequently has conflicts with her primary care giver (Granny). Mudgu's world, however, is one that is undercut and subverted by poverty, male violence/abuse, and societal indifference to that violence. Kingston, as presented in blood.claat, is not a safe place and particularly hazardous for women. Ultimately all the women in the play fall prey to a cycle of abuse and male violence that appears endless. A cycle of blood (death blood) that is paralleled with the female cycle of menstruation (life blood).
There is an attempt to find solace in "the eternal umbilical cord -- the slave bloodline -- that reconnects Mudgu to her past and to her future." This solace is subverted by the fact that Mudgu is only able to use her genetic connection to a slave rebel to allow her to endure the violence which she suffers at male hands.
Narratives are powerful things, but, in d'bi's play, the mythological stories told of the past are equally violent and hold little hope for an escape from the cycle of violence/abuse. While there is power (the power to endure) in that mythology, there is ultimately no empowerment. That is nothing less than tragic. At the end of blood.claat I was profoundly moved and also very depressed as no solutions are offered to break the cycle of violence. There is very little hope here; the mistakes of the past are repeated in the present. Women are forced to find strength in their ability to endure their victimization rather than prevent it. There is not a single positive male character: all are abusers or indifferent to the abuse. The society, as presented in the performance, is broken and dysfunctional. A society of victims and abusers. There is no suggestion that the future will be any different.
This situation is deeply depressing and, to be frank, at times hard to watch. It is important to note that blood.claat is just the first part of trilogy. I am hopeful that, given d'bi's politics, the rest of the series will be more focused on finding a way out of the cycle for both men and women. One that can only come through empowerment and not simply endurance.
d'bi is a charismatic performer who transitions between all the characters in the play seamlessly. I particularly enjoyed her portrayals of Granny and the young narcissistic DJ Johnny Black. She is aided in these transitions by Steve Lucas' excellent lighting design, which uses silhouettes and changes in lighting to help differentiate the characters and establish the switch from the present to the world of myth.
I found the choice to include nudity at all in the beginning of the show a little puzzling as later on in the show it is dropped as Mudgu mimes washing her nightgown. The nudity feels gratuitous and pointless, perhaps left over from an earlier incarnation of the script.
blood.claat has haunted me for days and provoked many conversations about the themes and politics it presents. If theatre can do this, it is successful. I, for one, am curious to watch the rest of the trilogy to see where d'bi.young anitafrika takes this story. For more information and a list of performance dates, click here.
Tags: abuse, blood.claat, dubbin theatre, evolution, fusion, gctc, jamaica, one woman show, ottawa, review, theatre, verse
blood.claat is not d.bi young's new work. This show was first created in 2005 and has since been touring. In addition,as you mention in this review, it is not even her most recent as it is the first what she calls the sankofa cycle of three plays (the other two being benu and word! sound! powah!, these other two were also written in 2005). Therefore it is neither new in that it has been touring for the past five years and that it is not her newest piece. The only people for whom it is new is those audience members who have yet to see it.
Thank you for your comment Anonymous. Your point on my use of the term "new work" is well taken. Five years still seems fairly recent to me, but I can see how that phrase could be misinterpreted. Thank you for calling attention to it.
I agree with Anonymous.
The maturing follicles then release another hormone, estrogen. As the follicles ripen over a period of about seven days, they secrete more and more estrogen into the bloodstream. The Menstruation cycle is the periods of depression, blood cloat. Estrogen causes the lining of the uterus to thicken. It causes the cervical mucous to change. When the estrogen level reaches a certain point it causes the hypothalmus to release Leutenizing Hormone Releasing Factor (LH-RF) causing the pituitary to release a large amount of Leutenizing Hormone (LH). This surge of LH triggers the one most mature follicle to burst open and release an egg. This is called ovulation