Review: Nightmare Dream (IFT Theatre with Newface Entertainment)

Stunningly executed site-specific theatre production Nightmare Dream fills the Campbell House Museum in Toronto

In honour of Black History Month, IFT Theatre in association with Newface Entertainment bring to life a story of cultures colliding in this dynamic site-specific production that uses the historic Campbell House Museum to its fullest colonial potential. Nightmare Dream embraces the use of movement, sound and dialogue to explore the heart and soul of Africa as it meets head on with European colonization and influence.

Nightmare Dream follows the journey of Simon Dube (Peter Bailey) as he travels back to Africa to perform the tribal and foreign funeral rites for his deceased father. As we accompany Simon, both figuratively and literally, through his struggles with identity, the clash of Africa and Europe that ultimately resulted in slavery, and the revolution to reclaim African pride. We witness Simon’s transformation as the underlying question bears repeating – what is your name?

This is a play that requires the audience to follow the actors as they make their way throughout this historic venue. Personally for me, a factor that truly speaks to me as the audience becomes enveloped in the story as it unfolds around them. The audience, subsequently, also gets the chance to explore the rooms of this fantastic heritage building. Bear in mind that you will be standing for most parts of this performance and seating is limited. There are also stairs involved, not making this location wheelchair friendly. Also, due to spacing there are only a limited amount of tickets allotted to each performance so bear this in mind when ordering tickets.

There are few words I can use to sum up this performance, ‘stunning’ comes to mind along with ‘intense’. The use of tribal dance and music to represent the heart and soul of Mother Africa speaks to a primal part in all of us that recognizes that earthy ancient heritage.

Much applause to dancer and choreographer Pulga Muchochoma who spoke volumes without actually saying anything at all, allowing his movement to express volumes. I must also give high praise to lead actor Peter Bailey who I had seen previously in Violent Be Violet during this past SummerWorks festival. Though he played a supporting character previously, his remarkable talent is given room to shine here. The anguish he feels is palpable as he becomes torn between conflicting worlds. And for her own equal intensity portrayed in pent up anger and released in the power of her voice in song, hats off to Neema Bickersteth for her mesmerizing vocal talent.

Accompanying me for this night’s performance was my friend Kawai who had always been interested in theatre but had never attended a site-specific production. Though the idea of walking with the actors seemed strange at first, he was immediately drawn in by the story and felt that the musical cues coming from elsewhere in the house signaling the transition were seamlessly done. He, too, was blown away by Muchochoma’s dance pieces and all the emotions embodied within.

The story is not linear and understanding that, it may be a bit difficult to follow while the movement between rooms can seem distracting. You do feel like you travel through time when following the story going backwards and forwards throughout the duration of this story. Some scenes do not even hold that much dialogue but allow small movements – such as the communal enjoyment of a cup of tea – but I feel it’s those moments of stillness that help lock in the audience and begs the crowd to lean in closer to not miss a beat.

This is a story that holds such commentary on what it means to be an African Canadian living in Toronto holding on the burning torch of their ancestral heritage in a westernized world. It is a production well worth enjoying and sharing this Black History Month.

Details

  • Nightmare Dream is a site-specific production playing at the Campbell House Museum (160 Queen Street West).
  • Performances run from February 20 – 24.
  • Performances are at 8 pm with matinee shows on February 23 and 24 at 2 pm.
  • Tickets range from $15-25 with matinee shows at PWYC.
  • Only 25 tickets are available per show, be sure to book your tickets early.
  • Tickets can be purchased online or at the venue an hour before show time pending availability.

Photo of Neema Bickersteth, Pulga Muchochoma, and Peter Bailey by Mariuxi Zambrano.