Bleeders (Watah Theatre) 2016 SummerWorks Review

Bleedersd’bi.young anitafrika’s Bleeders, currently playing at The Theatre Centre Mainspace as part of the SummerWorks Performance Festival, is fierce and vibrant.

Packed into the lobby, the audience awaits the comfort of seats, but suddenly placards are raised and forceful chanting reverberates through the crowd. We find ourselves in the midst of a protest against the Pickering Nuclear Plant.

The protesters are beaten down and taken away, and we make our way into the venue where we encounter a frightening, near-future world where the nuclear plant has exploded and poisoned flora and fauna—humanity included.

In the midst of disease and social upheaval, a small group of Black women form a council to make connections and heal the wounded world. An emissary is chosen to visit the ancestral past to unpack their shared history and find some hope for the future.

This dub-opera is the third and final entry in anitafrika’s Orisha Trilogy, which seeks to weave together concepts of Black identity and the environment. In Bleeders, every aspect of the production is in sync with the idea that the oppression of Black voices is destructive on a scale that goes beyond the specifics of race and gender; the consequences extend outward, threatening the very earth itself.

This story is set in the future, but it feels both mythic and contemporary, as if these characters and their situation exist across time.

Waleed Abdulhamid’s gorgeous music sounds modern yet ancient. Rachel Forbes covers the performers in black leotards with swatches of red cloth that suggest torn viscera. Nickeshia Garrick’s choreography is sensual and animalistic. The performances are intense, sometimes dangerous, sometimes playful, and with breathtaking choral singing.

There are many haunting moments and I frequently found myself suddenly wiping away tears, though I’d been tapping my feet with joy only seconds earlier. There was one moment in particular that really got me: a woman mourns the loss of friends after a period of violence and pulls the bodies towards her as she processes the loss.

During a heartfelt Q&A after the performance, I learned that this is a workshop presentation. Even in this emergent state, Bleeders is an exceptionally powerful piece of theatre. Please, don’t miss it!


Bleeders plays at The Theatre Centre Mainspace (1115 Queen Street West).

Show times:

  • Thursday August 4th, 10:00 PM – 11:30 PM
  • Saturday August 6th, 3:45 PM – 5:15 PM
  • Sunday August 7th, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
  • Monday August 8th, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Wednesday August 10th, 9:15 PM – 10:45 PM
  • Friday August 12th, 7:45 PM – 9:15 PM
  • Sunday August 14th, 3:15 PM – 4:45 PM

Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series ticket prices vary. Tickets are available online at, by phone at 416-320-5779 and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 2-14 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted. (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)

Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

Image provided by the company.