Nkkami (Soothemysisters Productions) 2011 SummerWorks Review

I must confess I was woefully ignorant about the civil war in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002 and the exploitation of child soldiers during the conflict prior to seeing Nkkami.

The play is based on two books. The Bite of the Mango is the memoirs of Mariatu Kamara who was sexually assaulted and had her hands chopped off at age twelve by rebel soldiers. She is now a speaker for UNICEF Canada on the impact of war on children. The second book is A long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier who now works for the Human Rights Watch Children’s Division Advisory Committee.

Soothemysisters Productions is an extra-curricular theatre company at Notre Dame High School in Toronto. The all-female cast of thirteen members as well as three percussionists brought the moving and complex story to life using a mix of traditional African songs and dance, ballet, movement and storytelling. The performers played both male and female characters and I was deeply impressed by the emotional depth communicated by the young cast. The subject matter was intense and they managed to bring complex issues to life while making even the reprehensible characters credible and nuanced.

The cast appeared to be comprised of several triple threats in the making. The singing was beautiful and the movement and dance choreography was quite polished, especially for pre-professional performers.

The costumes were designed by Marguerite Jack-Vermey and the grade twelve fashion class at Notre Dame. The liberal use of colourful African textiles created a true feast for the eyes.

There was a lot to appreciate visually in Nkkami. The use of flowing red satin ribbons to represent shed blood highlighted some of the play’s key themes, such as finding beauty and insight through adversity.

Not only did I leave the show more informed on an important issue, I was greatly inspired by the fact that the future of independent theatre in Toronto appears to be in such capable hands.

Nkkami plays at Factory Mainspace. Playing at:

Saturday August 6th 10:00 PM
Sunday August 7th 5:00 PM
Tuesday August 9th 10:00 PM

All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.artsboxoffice.ca, by phone at 416.504.7529, in person at at the Arts Box Office (located at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave., One block North East of Bathurst & Queen W. M-F 12PM-7PM, Weekends 10AM-8PM) (Advance tickets are $15 +HST and $1 service fee)
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

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