Review: 21 Black Futures

by Lynn on February 12, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streaming on from today, Feb. 12, 2021.

The cinematographer for the series is Keenan Lynch.

Set and costumes for the series is by Rachel Forbes.

Lighting is by Shawn Henry

Projection design is by Cameron Davies and Laura Warren.

21 Black Futures is the brainchild of Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, the new Artistic Director of Obsidian Theatre. 2021 is the company’s 21st  anniversary.

So Mumbi Tinyebwa Otu invited 21 Black writers, directors and actors to create 21 monodramas as short films (about 10 minutes long) (since we can’t see them in a theatre) to explore the future of Blackness. The first three short monodramas are being shown on CBC Gem from today, Feb. 12. The next four will be shown on Feb. 19 and then the rest will follow.

After seeing the first three monodramas I can say that the talent is prodigious. The first three films offer a cross-section of pieces that range from almost whimsical but with a punch, a dub poetry performance-dance piece and a piece about a woman who has tried to control her emotions in a stressful job until lets loose.

The Death News is written by Amanda Parris, directed by Charles Officer, performed by Lovell Adams-Gray.

The piece is about an opportunity for Black men and women to pre-record their own obituaries so that the media doesn’t diminish them to stereotypes. Dante Cooper frets about what to wear for his pre-recording. He wonders how to describe himself, what he wants people to remember about him. It’s full of whimsy with a subtle seriousness that creeps up on you.

Amanda Parris has written a compelling piece that is a gut-punch when you realize what her idea of the future of Blackness is. Her dialogue is stunning. For example Dante says: “I’m hoping my existence won’t be dismissed.” Heartbreaking

Lovell Adams-Gray is both charming and moving as Dante. He leads us deeper into the piece when he talks about his regrets, his disappointments, his lost chances.  The piece is playful and sobering.

Jah In the Ever-Expanding Song is written by Kaie Kellough, directed by d’bi young anitafrica and performed by Ravyn Wngz.

Jah is Rastafari for God or Jehovah.

Against a circular backdrop that pulses with colour images and shapes, a performer (Ravyn Wngz) wears white face markings and an elaborate costume that one might assume is religious as she speaks a dense dub poem. The writing is vivid. I loved this line: “dub honeyed the air around me.” or this: “What good is music if you can’t ride inside its lushness.” Or this breath-taking line: “A police officer with his knee on the world’s neck.” Ravyn Wngz is compelling in her movements and the poetry.    

Sensitivity by Lawrence Hill, directed by Mike Payette and performed by Sabryn Rock.

Gabrialla is in a rage. She’s missed her train and wonders if a train can be racist. We realize this is misplaced anger. She’s just been fired with cause as Director of Equity and Diversity, a job she held for six years.

Lawrence Hill writes of the very tricky world of Equity and Diversity and how to navigate that world when racism is everywhere. People who have to take Gabrialla’s course on sensitivity want to make a living wage not to be compelled to take a sensitivity course. The world in which Gabrialla works is smoldering in animosity and anger. She tries to control her emotions, until she finally explodes and that gets her fired with cause. But rather than be defeated by this she delves deeper into herself, comes to a realization, and writer, Lawrence Hill ends it perhaps with a question of what Gabrialla will do next.  Sabryn Rock is terrific in rage and brings nuance and subtlety to her performance.  

This is a wonderful beginning to the series. I’m looking forward to the other monodramas of 21 Black Futures.  

21 Black Futures begins from today, Feb. 12 on

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