The Drinking Gourd (Jazz Haz) 2021 Toronto Fringe Review

This is a photo of Anthony Audain, as the Runaway Slave

The Drinking Gourd by Jazz Haz Productions is currently playing On Demand as part of the 2021 Toronto Digital Fringe. This is a musical-documentary by Anthony Audain and Rob Lindey that tells the story of The Underground Railroad in Canada. It was my first Digital Fringe show and I found it moving and informative.

The Drinking Gourd depicts the journey of an escaped slave travelling along the Railroad, and features field songs used to communicate coded information and inspire hope (sung by Audain). Rob Lindey narrates and gives a short, informative lecture on the Underground Railroad.

My sole gripe with The Drinking Gourd was the impression that some corners were cut in the production. Most were small things (like nighttime scenes clearly being shot in the day), but seeing that the narrator’s scenes were shot with Rob Lindey reading off a piece of paper pulled me out of the experience. Given this was shot in advance, I could not really brush it off. 

That said, I did enjoy The Drinking Gourd. Clocking in at just 22 minutes, it goes by quickly and features an emotional performance from Anthony Audain. Audain has a nice singing voice, and is backed by Rob Lindey on the keys. The sound is stripped down. However, his performance is earnest, emotional, and touching. In the latter half of the video, his singing and spoken word becomes softer, sadder, and more raw. I did enjoy Rob Lindey as the narrator as well.

The emotional core of this performance is Audain’s journey as an unnamed Black slave escaping to Canada. However, this musical-documentary is extremely informative and covers a topic that every Canadian should learn more about: the Underground Railroad. There were also short bios about important figures in the Underground Railroad–Harriet Tubman, Rev. William King, Josiah Henson, Mary Ann Shadd, and Harriet Beecher Stowe–at the end of the video. 

Overall, I enjoyed this show despite being left with the impression that the production was, at times, a bit clumsy. If you have a Digital Fringe pass, I recommend taking the time to see this informative and moving production.

Details

  • The Drinking Gourd is playing on-demand at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival.
  • Purchase a $5 Membership to access the On-Demand programming on the Fringe website, then Pay What You Can to each show as you go, with the suggested price of $13 per show.
  • Memberships can be purchased here. View the virtual on-demand show listings here.
  • Accessibility notes:
    • On-Demand shows: videos are closed captioned, transcripts are available for all audio content, documents are screen-reader friendly, and all digital images are provided with alternative text descriptions. These access supplements have been generated by the company and reviewed by the Festival. They may vary slightly from company to company.
    • Fringe Primetime presentations will feature Auto-Transcribed Captioning.
  • Content warning: Parental Guidance Advised, features gunshots, graphic violence, and abrupt cues.
  • Read all of Mooney on Theatre’s 2021 Virtual Toronto Fringe Festival coverage here.

Photo Credit: Anthony Audain, as the Runaway Slave, taken by photographer, Rob Lindey.

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