by Lynn on January 24, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont.

Part of Progress International Festival of Performance Ideas

Created by Neema Bickersteth, Kate Alton, Ross Manson
Directed by Ross Manson
Choreographed by Kate Alton
Set by Camellia Koo
Costumes by Charlotte Dean
Piano Gregory Oh
Percussion, Computer Composition by Debashis Sinha
Projection Design by fettFilm, Germany (Momme Hinrichs & Torge Møller)
Cast/soprano: Neema Bickersteth

I was only able to see this on its last performance before it went on tour. Century Song was a beautiful, vivid, dazzling journey through a century of black experience told through song, dance, movement, projections, music and stunning visual imagery. This was not a history lesson, although aspects of black history was referenced. Rather it is a wordless, but not soundless journey through time and space.

Singer/dancer/creator Neema Bickersteth sits quietly in the front row dressed in a long loose-fitting brown coat. When the performance starts she rises and through song and dance sheds the coat, then the various layers that bind her until she wears a beautiful flowing, vibrant long dress that allows her to move freely. It’s the first time the character smiles with the bliss of free movement.

The projections are brilliant. On the flat back wall a projection creates the illusion of a three dimensional room. Then the room flows forward revealing another room in perspective and then another and another. In each room a person watches tv. As the rooms flow forward leaving us to watch several rooms in perspective, the televisions go from being ancient, to more modern in tern.

The star is Neema Birkersteth. She sings and dances like a dream. The voice is a strong, beautiful soprano. The movement is fluid. She is the pride, dignity, grit and elegance of each age over the century.

It was directed with an artist’s eye by Ross Manson. This was a beautiful, artful production.

Curated and Produced by Volcano Theatre

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