by Lynn on November 19, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer


A binaural audio experience, co-produced by Factory Theatre and Obsidian Theatre. Streaming Nov. 19-28.

Written by Lisa Codrington

Directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu

Foley artist, sound designer and composer, John Gzowski

Starring Alison Sealy-Smith

I first saw Cast Iron, playwright Lisa Codrington’s first play, in 2005. At the time I said: “Lisa Codrington is a new vibrant voice that deserves to be heard… bold and daring.” This binaural audio production is the first revival in 16 years. That’s a pity. The play has a lot to say about aging, loneliness, the traditions and hold that ‘home’ has on a person, how memory haunts us and the demons we try to keep inside.

Libya is being bedeviled. She is in a nursing home in Winnipeg and she can’t sleep because the cold wind outside keeps howling. She’s spent time there, alone, when that night she is visited by a man—is he real? In her imagination? Can she confide in him her secrets that have been haunting her for 40 years when she lived in her native Barbados?

Libya goes back into her memory to dredge up the superstitions and folklore she was taught by her grandmother, a feisty woman who wielded a cast iron pan for protection as well as making her famous Bajan Bakes. Libya coveted that pan. But her grandmother held on to it tightly, as one would a secret recipe.

Libya conjured up the memory of her rivalry with her more popular half-sister, Gracie and how Libya was jealous of Gracie’s success in attracting the attentions of an admired local man. Libya remembers how terrified she was of a woman known to her community as “The Red Woman” and how it was rumoured “The Red Woman” would catch children and kill them in the tall shafts of sugar cane with a butcher’s knife. There was a logical explanation of why she was called “The Red Woman”, but Lidya was held tight by the superstition. One particular terrifying event in Libya’s past bubbles to the surface that evening while she is confiding to the stranger. We see how much anxiety she has been carrying around with her for years.

Playwright Lisa Codrington has created Libya as a woman bursting with life, anger, frustration and haunted memories. She speaks in a Bajan dialect that is both musical and challenging if one is not used to it. Alison Sealy-Smith and her director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu trust the audience to ‘get it’ and be attentive to its riffs, idiosyncrasies and colourfulness. On her own, Codrington has a keen sense of language. At one point Lidya says to the unseen/unknown force, “Take my hand and let me go.” It’s a line full of poetry and heart-ache. And it’s stunning.

Sealy-Smith is fearless in playing all the characters in the play. She is determined and forthright as Libya; almost crazed as the old woman in the nursing home, and just briming with jealousy and frustration as her younger self in Barbados. She also plays a young, viral man; stodgy older people and many and various personalities.

Because of the nature of the binaural sound—that it surrounds the room—the sense of activity, racing, rushing through foliage if not sugar cane, is beautifully produced in sound by John Gzowski, the foley artist, sound designer and composer. The sounds are vivid and put us right in the world of the play, if not Libya’s imagination.  

My only regret with Lisa Codrington’s work is that we don’t hear/see it enough. More please.

Produced by Factory Theatre and Obsidian Theatre

Plays: Until Nov. 28, 2021.

Running Time: 70 minutes

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1 Scotthob November 20, 2021 at 4:22 am