by Lynn on June 26, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Adam Pottle

Directed by Mira Zuckermann

Set and props by Ken MacKenzie

Lighting by Chris Malkowski

Costumes by Ruth Albertyn

Sound by Adam Harendorf

Drummer, Dimitri Kanaris

Projection designer, Laura Warren

Choreographer and movement, Patricia Allison

Cast: Natashia C. Bacchus

Dawn Jani Birley

Corinna Den Dekker

Daniel Durant

Bob Hiltermann

Yan Liu

Agata Wisny

Ballet Dancers:

Abbey Jackson-Bell

Jaelyn Russell-Lillie

Sita Weereatne

The Black Drum is a huge undertaking for the Deaf Culture Centre because it is a fully signed deaf musical. You read that right.  Adam Pottle’s musical is part fantasy, part myth, part fairy tale with dollops of horror films dropped in.

There are eleven scenes. At the centre of this world is “The Minister” a sinister man, (Bob Hiltermann) tall, muscular, imposing and forbidding. He is dressed in black with thick-soled boots that give him even more height. His hands look like they could crush coconuts. His is a world without colour, joy, laughter, music, freedom or love. With a raise of a hand he can control the various people in his wake. One woman dutifully obeys his commands as if he was pulling her by a string, her body jerks backwards as she moves forward.

In a parallel story, Joan (a performing artist—the expressive Dawn Jani Birley) grieves her dead wife, Karen. The worlds collide when we realize Karen is the person being dragged along by the Minister as if pulled by a string.

The program breaks each scene down but those of us who are not hearing impaired are not able to read the program in the darkened theatre. The ‘dialogue’ is all signed by the cast. The hearing impaired in the audience can read sign language. I can’t. Surtitles would have been helpful to understand the story. Some of it seems rather dense. This is a tale of good vs. evil and one is never sure who will win. Pottle keeps us unsettled. I like that.

The music is provided by the impressive drumming of Dimitri Kanaris on a black kettle drum. There is a rumble of sound that underscores the drumming and other moments.

Mira Zuckermann directs this accomplished cast with economy as well as compelling images. A deaf musical. What a huge accomplishment. It was fascinating being in that world for this production. At the end, we all waved our hands in the air, which is how hearing impaired people applaud.

Deaf Culture Centre in association with Soulpepper Presents:

Opened: June 20, 2019.

Closes: June 29, 2019.

Running Time: 75 minutes

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