Review: I SEE THE CRIMSON WAVE at the Bees in the Bush Festival, Barrie, Ont.

by Lynn on September 9, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at a private backyard at the Bees in the Bush Festival, Talk is Free Theatre, in Barrie, Ont. until Sept. 11, 2021.

Roy Lewis, wondrous actor, poet, theatre creator, continues his journey in telling the story of Nat Love, an African-American former slave who was a cowboy at the turn of the last century, a porter on the railroad, who loved words, wrote poetry especially the Japanese form of poetry called haiku and had vivid adventures.

I first saw his creation, I See The Crimson Wave last year in Stratford, Ont. as part of the Here for Now Theatre, New Works Festival and loved it and said so. This year Talk Is Free Theatre in Barrie, Ontario has included Roy Lewis’ play as part of its Bees in the Bush Festival of performances done outdoors in a private backyard.

The play was written and performed by Roy Lewis with creative input by Marti Maraden. Last year I wrote an appreciation of the work, still in workshop form, praising the writing, the imagination in the story-telling, the gift of language, the poetry and the joy in the telling of Roy Lewis.

After seeing the latest iteration of the play, my admiration still stands and then some. Lewis continues his journey of creating the story of Nat Love, refining it, polishing the words and making them shine. His choice of language is stunning. At one point he speaks of a ‘tapenade of flavours.” My mouth waters at that.

And while the story of Nat love is still there, Lewis begins this version with a sobering focus. It was illegal for a Black man to read and write. To do so had dire consequences. They could be jailed or worse, hands or fingers could be cut off. Blacks could not be educated, again with dire consequences. Nat Love was taught to read and write by his father. I think it important that audiences hear that sobering note about how dangerous it was for Blacks to be taught how to read and write. It puts everything else in context.  

 Nat Love became a cowboy moving west. He even wrote his autobiography detailing his exploits: Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as ‘Deadwood Dick,’ by Himself. Roy Lewis recounts how Nat Love wrote about the rules and regulations governing a cowboy’s life. He wrote about adventures taking a huge herd of cattle to market; meeting notable cowboys of the day; meeting Lily Langtry who was on tour across America; he wrote about being a porter on a train and discovering the beauty of poetry, specifically haiku.

Roy Lewis is an engaging actor, charming us with his bass-baritone voice, commanding, full of nuance, subtlety and depth, then catching us up short when he sings in the most delicate of soprano/tenor voices as Lily Langtry.

When Roy Lewis says that Nat Love wrote everything he is going to read to us, including all the poetry and haiku, all the dazzling descriptions and hilarious encounters, we believe him. Lewis punctuates everything with a smile and perhaps a wink. In this year’s iteration Roy Lewis is relaxed, engaging, and moves easily around the space.  Roy Lewis instills so much joy in the telling, makes the words sound delicious and makes us fall in love with the beguiling Nat Love. I look forward to seeing how the story will evolve.

Presented by Talk Is Free Theatre for the Bees in the Bush Festival.

Plays until: Sept. 11, 2021.

Running Time: 1 hour.

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1 Алексей September 16, 2021 at 3:10 am

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