By Judith Robinson
The Adventures of The Black Girl in Her Search for God – Lisa Codrington’s adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s 1932 short story – is an over-the-top satire on western civilization’s attempts to convert Africans to the Judeo-Christian model. And the Shaw Festival’s lunch hour production is zany, outrageous and through provoking. Director, Ravi Jain, kept the energy high. Characters moved in and off the stage, through trap doors, across the balcony and through the audience. The tone and pitch was intense and the actions at times frenetic. The third wall was frequently smashed. Photo by David Cooper
Lighting designer, Louise Guinand, kept the torch of the inquisition brightly shining on a gigantic Bible on its side that covered most of centre stage – belonging to Natasha Mumba, the Black Girl spiritual seeker.
Characters, dressed in outlandish Old Testament garbs, leapt out of trap doors below the passages of scripture. Designer Camellia Koo’s simple, yet symbolic, sets and costumes revealed the plot more clearly than spoken words. Pages were ripped and torn as Scripture verses were displayed on a backdrop.
Ben Sanders, put in a stunning performance as the prophet, Micah the Morasthite and as King Solomon – characters who attempted to explain traditional Jewish teachings to Mumba. But the main character appeared to have a closer spiritual affinity to Kiera Sangster, the Black Mamba Snake, who expertly personified the earthy pagan way of knowing, with Eartha Kitt energy. Mumba was pulled back and forth between spiritual paths until she realized and accepted that the white religion could never provide her with the kinds of answers she needed.
Although the one-hour play was filled with slap stick one-liners, Smothers Brothers put downs, and comedic gestures, the undertone was serious and angry. The Black Girl did not find the meaning she sought. Perhaps the fact that she was able to ask authentic questions indicated a spark of hope.
Black Girl is playing at the Court House Theatre in Niagara on the Lake until September 11th.