Review: who knew grannie: a dub aria – Obsidian Theatre company in association with Factory Theatre

By Megan Mooney

who knew grannie

Hard to know what to expect from a show that is billed as a dub aria.  What you get with Obsidian Theatre‘s who knew grannie, now playing at Factory Theatre, is a night filled with beauty.  The characters (and actors) were beautiful, the language was beautiful, the drumming was beautiful, and the signing was, well, something more than beautiful.  Spectacular?  The singing was spectacular.

You may have guessed by now that I loved who knew grannie.  Sam (aka mum) was my show partner for this one, and she also loved the piece.  The only caveat would be that there’s a reasonable chance you’ll cry at some point in the production.  That said, Sam was quick to point out that, although she spent a reasonable amount of time crying, she didn’t feel beaten up at the end.  It was a perfect description.

So often shows that involve a whack of crying on my part just knock the wind out of me.  I walk out of the theatre glad I had gone, appreciating the work, but also feeling completely spent.  I did my share of weeping at who knew grannie, but at the end I felt excited and exhilarated.

In case you’re wondering where all the crying is coming from, the show starts with the death of grannie, and ends with grannie’s funeral.  But, I don’t want you to think that this is a morose show.  It’s not.  The story isn’t particularly complex or surprising, but it’s good.  The show carried me through with laughter, tears, and the desire to dance in my seat.  A truly great combination.

This isn’t you’re typical play, which, no doubt, you’ve already guessed by the description “a dub aria”.  I have very little familiarity with poetry, so I’m going to try and make some comparisons based on my very limited knowledge to try and give you a flavour of what to expect from the text.

It’s as though there are several poems that are linked, not only by theme, but also by character, and by story.  It kind of reminded me of a spoken (dub poetry is spoken) version of George Elliott Clarke’s Whyalla Falls in terms of its structure.  You may remember Whyalla Falls from the very first Canada Reads in 2002.  It is a book of poems that combine to tell a story, in a way that can sort of feel like a novel.  who knew grannie feels like a script of poems that combine to tell a story and sort of feels like a play.

All the performances are stunning, but Sam and I couldn’t get over the amazing singing from Ordena, who played grannie.  The piece is accompanied by Amina Alfred on drums, watching over the production from above.

Basically, the show is a wealth of riches for the senses.  I really loved the piece.  If you’re looking for something that will please your ears, eyes and mind, then you should really check out who knew grannie at Factory Theatre.


who knew grannie: a dub aria plays until April 4, 2010 in the Factory Mainspace Theatre

–  plays Tuesday – Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (except Sunday, March 14 – 7 p.m. preview)

– Single tickets run $15 – $35 (discounts for previews, seniors, students or theatre artists as well as groups of ten or more).  Pay-What-You-Can Sunday and a limited number of $10 RUSH tickets (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday) are available.

– Tickets can be purchased online at 24 hours a day, or by calling (416) 504-9971 or by visiting the Factory Theatre Box Office in person

Photo of the cast by Nicola Betts