Review: acts of faith

by Lynn on November 19, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

From Factory Theatre, Toronto, Ont.


Written by David Yee

Directed by Nina Lee Aquino

Set and Costumes by Joanna Yu

Lighting by Michelle Ramsay

Sound and broadcast designer, Miquelon Rodriguez

Cast: Natasha Mumba

A beautifully written, gripping story of faith, loss and justice. Natasha Mumba gives a mesmerising performance under director Nina Lee Aquino’s assured direction.   It’s a bold experiment in theatre for these difficult times.

The Story. It’s directed beautifully by Nina Lee Aquino.

It’s performed at the Factory Theatre by Natasha Mumba who plays Faith and she is terrific.

It starts with Faith, aged 13-years-old, living in Africa (Zambia) with her mother.  Faith is obviously precocious and a bit mischievous. She plays a trick on a friend and people believe Faith has magical powers and is a prophet as a result.  Her mother has her number and makes Faith go to confession to confess her trick. The priest is an Englishman with a tattoo (that really impresses Faith). But the priest is less than appropriate and begins to lift Faith’s skirt until she makes her discomfort known. (the confessional was a flimsy affair without the ‘wall’ between the confessor and the priest). Faith became wary of the priest and never wanted to go to church again.

Faith tells her mother who doesn’t believe her because her mother believes a priest would not act inappropriately to anyone.  Again, Faith does something that gets her mother to change her mind and the priest is sent packing. What follows is a story of determination of Faith to put a stop to this priest—who seems to go from parish to parish focusing on schools for young girls. The story also goes from Zambia, to Toronto, to Muskoka. Along the way Faith loses her faith but not her determination.

The Production. Joanna Yu’s set is simple and evocative, with a bed in the background, windows covered in white curtains with shadows behind them and shadows and silhouettes on the walls that enhances scenes.

It’s performed at the Factory Theatre by Natasha Mumba who plays Faith and she is terrific. Joanna Yu’s costume for Faith is a pair of draw-string pants and a loose-fitting sweater. Mumba gives a thoughtful, nuanced performance as Faith. I saw the sass and resolve of Faith in this bold performance.

Director Nina Lee Aquino directed this with a beautiful sense of careful movement. Rather than having lots of different camera shots, it was the performance that shifted and pivoted in the space. Often Natasha Mumba would lean into the camera for her own closeup, or she pulled away for what looked like a long shot. In all cases, she didn’t move if it wasn’t necessary.  When she did move it was effective.

acts if faith is the first performance of the Factory Theatre virtual season.

It’s a terrific beginning.

Comment.  acts of faith was written by David Yee specifically for Factory Theatre as a filmed live performance. David Yee is a nimble, smart writer. He has fashioned a story for our pandemic times without mentioning it. We have to have faith and determination to get through.

The story also references situations in which young people know an unpleasant truth about people in authority but few people believe them until they are proven right.  Faith’s story is harrowing and David Yee’s writing of it is gripping. I also loved the play on words of the title that can be taken as acts of belief and also the various acts of Faith, our heroine.

The title is in lower case—David Yee being cheeky—he writes in lower case.

This being a filming of a live production, I found there were glitches. The screen kept on freezing and I kept on refreshing. Not sure if that problem was my internet or something else. But in spite of this jumpy situation, the quality of David Yee’s writing, Nina Lee Aquino’s sensitive direction and the wonderful performance of Natasha Mumba’s performance shone through completely.

acts of faith is streamed from Factory Theatre until Nov. 28.

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