nanny: maroon warrior queen is being workshopped at Lower Ossington Theatre as part of SummerWorks. As usual, I like to minimize the amount of research I do on a show before I see it. I chose to review nanny: maroon warrior queen based on the themes of feminism, anticolonialism, history and spirituality as laid out in the program description.
Because this is a work in progress, every night’s performance is different. The mythologized historical figure Nanny begins the performance by silently taking us through her daily ritual. She wears a mask behind which her wide eyes peer her audience and we really feel that she sees us.
There is no fourth wall; Nanny acknowledges all latecomers. Nanny addresses the audience and asks very difficult questions: Why have you come here? Are you burdened by something? What is your greatest fear?
She tells us we are waiting for someone and as each latecomer passed through the door, I wondered if this was a gimmick of the show. It was not. There are no gimmicks in nanny.
The person we were waiting for is Efua, a thirty-five year old mother of two, also portrayed by d’bi.young, who enters the stage running for her life. It was a very intense couple of minutes and in that time I felt the weight and magnitude of four hundred years of oppression.
Nanny uses Efua’s experience to distinguish between wanderers and explorers. She talks about displacement, slavery, imprisonment and freedom. She uses story and fable to help us get closer to our own truths.
d’bi.young leaves just enough time at the end of the performance for a talkback. I was happy for the conversation and enlightened by her very transparent creative process. Community is key.
The playwright takes audience suggestions, makes rewrites and incorporates the changes into each new performance.
nanny: maroon warrior queen is powerful, transcendent, uplifting, challenging theatre. On stage, I recognized my own personal struggle as a woman, an artist and a human being as well as my own responsibility to humanity. This is not a niche play; themes and discussions that arise are relevant to any and all living people.
It is through these discussions and an exploration of the questions both Nanny and d’bi.young pose that will help us get closer to ourselves, our truths and our freedom.
- nanny: maroon warrior queen plays through August 18th at Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Ave.)
- All tickets $15. Money-saving passes are available. For more information, and to order online, see the festival website.
- Remaining performances: Sunday August 11, 12:00 pm; Monday August 12, 5:00 pm; Thursday August 15, 7:30 pm; Friday August 16, 5:00 pm; Saturday August 17, 2:30 pm.
Image of nanny: maroon warrior queen provided by anitafrika dub theatre