Reviews: 21 Black Futures

by Lynn on March 1, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streaming on CBC Gem.

Season Three.

To mark Obsidian Theatre’s 21st anniversary, Artistic Director, Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu asked 21 Black playwrights to create 21 short monodramas to be filmed and streamed, focusing on the idea of the future of Blackness. 21 Black Futures was born.

The selections over the first two seasons have been inventive, bracing and provocative. The third season carries on with these fascinating monodramas.


Written by K.P. Dennis

Directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu.

Performed by Alison Sealy-Smith

This situation is perfect. Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu is the present Artistic Director of Obsidian Theatre and she is directing Alison Sealy-Smith who was one of the founding artists of Obsidian Theatre and its founding Artistic Director.

In K.P Dennis’ touching monodrama, it is after the desolation of the Revolution and Ancestor has to plant seeds for the new generation. It’s a daunting task because there is more ash than soil but she perseveres. She holds out a handful of ‘odd looking seeds’ and plants one at a time in the powdery ash. She feels she has worsened with age and has not gotten rid of her rage. From some where she feels a pain in her jaw. Excruciating. Then she realizes that she must provide one of the most important seeds—a wisdom tooth, which she pulls out of her mouth. Of course, the odd looking seeds are teeth to be planted for the next generation to take over. “Joy will be free and limitless” she says.

K.P. Dennis’ monodrama is wise and imaginative. Alison Sealy-Smith is such a welcome presence here—tenacious, overwhelmed but undaunted. A dandy performance. And Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu directs this with sensitivity and enough close-ups for the viewer to wonder about the clues and finally ‘get it’.

40 Parsecs & Some Fuel

Written by Omari Newton

Directed by Lucius Dechausay

Performed by Daniel Faraldo

It’s 2050 and Satchel Dew wonders how you inspire people who refuse to dream. In urgent, buoyant hip-hop, Daniel Faraldo as Satchel, recounts how he felt he was contributing to the betterment of the world. As a Black man, an engineer who created important things, he was relevant. He lived in a place where Black people could live in peace and with respect. But then he realized his employers had other thoughts. He realized racial integration of nations had failed; that something he created was not being used for good. So Satchel decided to solve the problem, dream big and save himself and others.

In stunning lines like: “My people still can’t breathe.” “Trust me that there must be life beyond one on our knees,” playwright Omari Newton briskly creates Satchel’s world and its future.

The Prescription

Written by Lisa Codrington

Directed by Alison Duke

Performed by Akosua Amo-Adem

Chantal Thompson is no push-over. She thinks long and hard before she makes any decision.  She knows you don’t speak without there being consequences. In a stroke of costume designer brilliance (Rachel Forbes) Chantal wears a t-shirt that says in big letters: Ba-boom! With Lisa Codrington’s name below the lettering.  Chantal has been presented with what might be a terrific opportunity: to be given a prescription that gives Black women their voice back; that provides endless doses of time and space for Black women to speak their minds and be heard.  

Chantal is not so sure. She’s wary and careful. She says, “It’s hard to alter your route when you’re filled to the brim with doubt.” (“route” is pronounced as if it was the American pronunciation so “route” and “doubt” sound the same and rhyme). The prescription sounds too good to be true, so Chantal is going to read the fine print before she makes her decision.

This is a terrific piece by Lisa Codrington. Her writing is smart, economical and pointed. Alison Duke directs this carefully and tightly.  There are moments when Chantal notes those times when things go ‘BA-BOOM!” and there is a rain shower of pink bits that have exploded. Akosua Amo-Adem as Chantal is fearless and formidable.


Written by Stephie Mazunya

Rehearsals directed by Katia Café-Fébrissy

Film director, Mike Payette

Performed by Sheila Ingabire-Isaro

This is performed (beautifully) in French by Sheila Ingabire-Isaro, with English subtitles.

Playwright Stephie Mazunya explores the loaded question: Where are you from?

Muco was trying to find out who she was and how to answer the question. She spoke in the third person, perhaps to gain some distance. Her mother was from Burundi but told her daughter virtually nothing of her life there. Muco was expected to marry a Burundi man and no one else. There were many different ethnicities but Muco was not told how to differentiate them. She met a young man at work who shared her love of books but the relationship was charged because he was not Black. She decided to become a writer after reading the works of Kafka, Dedalus and James Joyce. But she was keenly aware she was a Black woman, wanted to write about Black Lives Matter, and so she asked her university English professor to add Black writers to the curriculum. His reply was tasteless, ignorant and fireable if it happened today.

Stephie Mazunya has written a powerhouse of a monodrama that shows the tiny, daily cuts Muco and others endure to realize their dreams. Muco’s resolve is tremendous. Sheila Ingabire-Isaro’s performance is a gem of composure, anger, and tenacity. And she comes up with the perfect answer to the question: Where are you from?

Yen Ara Asaase Ni/This is Our Own Native Land

Written by Tawiah M’Carthy

Directed by Dorothy A. Akabong

Performed by Peter Fernandes

It’s 2080. There was a race war in North America so a boat with 500,000 refugees of mixed races, led by a young rich Black man sits in OSU harbor off the coast of Ghana, waiting to be accepted and allowed to disembark. They’ve been waiting a year.

The young man is half Ghanaian, ¼ Chinese and ¼ British. His grandfather came to Ghana to make his fortune and did but in doing so, the people remained poor. When the young man’s grandmother inherited her husband’s wealth things shifted. The young man was given a choice: he could inherit his grandfather’s money or his grandmother’s heritage. He chose the money in the hopes he could do good.

Ghana had seen its land and riches plundered by those who came from elsewhere to make money. Now the rules were shutting them out. The young man was caught in the middle.

Tawiah M’Carthy has written a complex, challenging play with many and various questions to ponder. Peter Fernandes as the young man gives a performance full of passion. It’s nicely directed by Dorothy A. Akabong.

Builders of Nations

Written by Joseph Jomo Pierre

Directed by Kimberley Rampersad

Performed by Philip Akin

Hussein is carving a monument with a hammer and chisel out of a huge rock. He seems to be the last man on earth. There was some kind of destruction and there is nothing but rocks left. He has issues with God. He asks what the rush to create the world in six days? Surely He should have at least taken His time in creating man, since He’s done such a poor job. He says: “It wouldn’t have taken the entirety of those seven days to notice the flaws—insecurity, jealousy and hate.” During the chiseling of the rock Hussein hurts himself. We notice a scar on his wrist—could it be from a shackle? Hussein addresses much of his speech to the spirit of his son, Amiri. Hussein wanted to build a better world for him. Hussein had hope once. He says he was conceived to the words: “Yes We Can”, during the night Obama won the election. There was hope then. There doesn’t seem to be much hope now. Hussein suggests that the virus killed mankind but him. He tried to get it but he just couldn’t

Playwright Joseph Jomo Pierre does not present a sugarcoated future for Hussein. The language is poetic and yet hard. Director Kimberley Rampersad has created a world that is desolate and huge—there is a backdrop of rich purple light. As Hussein, Philip Akin reveals a man who is haunted by an overwhelming task, consumed with love for his son, and raging at God for doing a lousy job and leaving him there to struggle to complete his monument.

Omega Child

Written by Cherissa Richards

Directed by ahdri zhina mandiela

Performed by Emerjade Simms

Years before there were racial wars started by a megalomaniac known as ‘Agent 45’ that ended the world as they knew it. His final parting shot was to press the ‘red button’ that destroyed life on earth. A group of Black freedom fighters escaped and went underground until it was safe. It was thought that aliens took over and were ready to pick up any vibes from adult life. So a child named Omega was sent to investigate because a child’s scent would not be detected. She is shocked when she does not see light, or colour or rainbows. But still she perseveres until she sees something that gives her hope. She is prepared to be part of a future that will be lived in honour of ‘Martin and Malcolm and Rosa and Treyvon.”

Cherissa Richards has written a sobering piece that seems within reason regarding the destruction. Emerjade Simms is a smiling, cheerful presence who is up for the task to find life. It’s a performance of nuance that has been realized by director ahdri zhina mandiela. There were moments at the end when there was lively colour and Omega did not remark on it. I thought that odd, but on the whole, I like the piece a lot.

Again, all the selections in Season 3 of 21 Black Futures investigate the question of what is the future of Blackness and they do it with economy, imagination, deft thinking and wonderful writing.

For all episodes:

Cinematographer, Keenan Lynch

Set and costumes, Rachel Forbes

Lighting by Shawn Henry

Projections by Cameron Davis and Laura Warren

Theme Music by Tika.

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