By Megan Mooney
Michael Jackson and Bollywood take the stage in Toronto’s Fringe Festival
Anita Majumdar has a reputation and track record to live up to. She’s a woman with a phenomenal amount of talent. Her most recent piece, Oy! Just Beat It! may not work as well for me as her earlier work, but there is still a lot to recommend this piece.
The piece begins a bit slowly. Too much pre-recorded singing for my taste. It felt too drawn out. I didn’t need that much to ‘set the stage’ for the piece. In fact, it almost felt as though the play didn’t start until Majumdar came on stage.
As always, Majumdar delivers her character with energy, charisma and humour. Her performance is certainly one of the things to recommend the piece. Unfortunately, for me, there was a bit of confusion around her in the piece, and after talking to a couple other audience members, apparently I wasn’t the only one.
The play addresses shadism, a big issue in India, and one that I already knew about. What confused me was that in the play characters were referring to Majumdar’s character as dark and ugly.
Now, not only is Anita Majumdar one of the most beautiful women around, but to my eye (and limited Western experience?) she’s also a pretty pale woman. So, it took me a bit to figure out what was going on. It was kind of like how in The Truth About Cats and Dogs Janeane Garofalo is supposed to be ugly, which was baffling because she’s beautiful.
When I was talking to another audience member after the show we were talking about how it might have helped us if she had darkened her skin for the role or something. But then, *after* the play, I had the opportunity to read the playwrights notes on the back of the program. In them Majumdar says “I could tell you how colonialism is one of the causes of shadism, I could even tell you how my mother grounded me whenever I got a suntan or how acting agents suggested I get coloured contacts so at least I ‘had a chance'”
So, even though Majumdar looks light-skinned to me, she was obviously effected by these issues. Which made me feel uncomfortable with my desire to have her darken her skin. But still, the problem remains that I – and at least a few other audience members – was distracted by it. I have no idea what a solution to this might be. Asking Majumdar to darken her skin seems insensitive, but relying on the audience to read the notes in the program obviously isn’t quite enough.
Back to the content of the play – Leon Aureus joins Majumdar on-stage, and the energy between the two performers was great. There was a nice spark and tension between the two.
Unfortunately, it felt a bit like the show didn’t know exactly what it was. The voice from the booth verged on farce, and on-stage there was a mixture of slapstick and drama. Don’t get me wrong, comedy and drama often work well together, but I have yet to see farce and drama work well together.
For me, the result was a bit of a fragmented feel. This was reinforced at the end when the show ended, faded to black, but then, wasn’t over. Shuffling was heard on stage as folks cleared the deck, and Majumdar and Aureus perform a dance for us. On it’s own, I liked the dance, it was cute and funny, and at the same time beautiful. I could watch Majumdar dance for hours. But the placement of this didn’t work for me. I actually felt that perhaps if the piece had started with the dance, perhaps almost as ‘an opening act’, then it would have worked better for me.
All that said, although the piece didn’t quite gel for me, I really did enjoy it. I feel like, with a bit of workshoping and development it could grow to a really great piece. I was glad to have seen it, and I certainly did enjoy my hour in the theatre. Well worth $10 and an hour of your time.
– Oy! Just Beat It! is playing at Venue 2 Tarragon Theatre Extraspace
Runs for 60 min.
Fri, July 2 5:45 PM – 209
Sat, July 3 7:00 PM – 217
Sun, July 4 1:15 PM – 220
Tue, July 6 10:30 PM – 237
Wed, July 7 4:00 PM – 240
Thu, July 8 7:00 PM – 249
Sun, July 11 3:30 PM – 268
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by Phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 ($10+$1 convenience fee)
– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows
Photo of Leon Aureus and Anita Majumdar by Scarlet OʼNeill