Comment: MIXTAPE

by Lynn on November 14, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Performed for a short run at the Grand Theatre, London, Ont. Closed: Nov. 13, 2022.

A Crow’s Theatre Production.

Written and performed by Zorana Sadiq

Directed by Chris Abraham

Set and props by Julie Fox

Lighting by Arun Srinivasan

Sound designer and live sound operator, Thomas Ryder Payne

I wasn’t able to see Mixtape when it played in Toronto last year, so I drove to London, Ont. last week where it played a short run at the Grand Theatre in the Auburn Developments Stage.

Julie Fox has designed a wide ‘chair’ with a wide seat and substantial, wide back that is placed centre-stage. Arun Srinivasan aims a cone of light from the flies onto the chair that pools under it as well—terrific effect.

Zorana Sadiq enters quickly, sits in the chair and looks at the audience quietly for several seconds. She is also listening to the sound and the silence in the room. Listening and hearing are equally important to her.

She talks about what musical instruments members of the audience played/or were assigned when they were in school. Comments came effortlessly from the audience. (I thought back to my school days and must have been away when instruments were assigned. I was placed in the choir). Zorana Sadiq talks of students picking a piece of paper on which was printed an instrument, out of a bin. When it was her turn there were two pieces of paper left. One had ‘trumpet’ written on it. The other had “flute”. Zorana Sadiq chose the paper with “flute” on it and not trumpet (‘God forbid’ as she said when faced with the prospect of picking that). That set Sadiq on her journey to discovering music in all its complex glory until she decided that becoming a classical singer was where her heart was.

Mixtape is full of an eclectic selection of music from the arresting arrangements of a Kate Bush song (“Lionheart”), to the lyrics of “Purple Rain” by Prince, to the intricacies of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations played by Glenn Gould and much more.

Classical music factored heavily, especially opera. Zarana Sadiq delved into the world of doing scales, the drudge of it, the necessity of it. She commented on one kind of scale, suggesting that she didn’t see the point of it. But then she made a breakthrough. She sang the scale and it was clear and matter of fact. She sang it again and the notes became rounder, fuller. Then the breakthrough, when she saw how the scale would lead into the heart of the notes, the depth of them. The result was full-throated, buoyant, deeply felt and rich. The look of realization on her face that she cracked a mystery of music was thrilling. One of the many beauties of Mixtape are the endless discoveries that Zorana Sadiq makes and conveys to her audience. They might not be versed in classical music, but they realize the richness and beauty because Sadiq conveys it so clearly and fully. And she is a wonderful singer which is obvious in her many selections.

Not only has Zorana Sadiq written a beautiful script that describes her exploration that plumbs the depths of musical clues but she also physically conveys those discoveries. Her hands float through the air expressing the roundness of a note. Her hands press together and glide through space as a note might soar through air. She is so attuned to listening that she reacts naturally to her audience and doesn’t miss a beat.

Director Chris Abraham is an unobtrusive but very present presence in the realization of this complex, at times esoteric piece. The result is a clarity of what has engaged Zorana Sadiq for so long about music and that is passed on to her embracing audience. Sadiq moves easily around the set from a sitting position, to bringing out a boom box from a secret hiding place upstage, to often sitting and often standing. Chris Abraham’s staging makes it all seem natural and not studied.

Sadiq talks briefly of her family. She says she is ‘pure Pakistani.’ Her father was an accountant. Her mother was a writer. She has one sister. Her parents fought all the time until they divorced.  It is her mother that was/is a constant presence and it’s not pretty. (Sadiq’s sister moved to Vancouver to escape their mother).  

Her mother was confident, proud, elegant at all times and suffocating in her determination that Zorana Sadiq should be as accomplished in opera as her mother’s ideal. Sadiq describes her mother’s determination about Zorana’s future as ‘delusional.’ But the damage done to her daughter–public humiliation, condescension and almost stalking her, in pursuit of this ideal–is disturbing. In a brilliant bit of direction, Chris Abraham has a ‘follow-spot’ of light slide along the floor as if it was Sadiq’s always present mother, following her. Chilling.

When Sadiq is able to gain confidence in her abilities, there would be her mother at her voice lessons or concerts providing a debilitating presence. Frightening. While Zorana Sadiq describes her mother as ‘delusional’ regarding her daughter’s career, Sadiq does not offer any reasons for her mother’s despicable behaviour towards her. It would be fascinating to know how a parent can be that cruel—jealousy? Envy?

It is to Zorana Sadiq’s credit that she has gotten out from under her mother’s venomous presence, created a life for herself and discovered music and her talent for it that is conveyed so beautifully in Mixtape.  

The Grand Theatre presents a Crow’s Theatre Production:

Ran: Nov. 8-13, 2022.

Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

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