Pictured: Natasha Mumba; Photo by Dahlia Katz (all photos by Dahlia Katz)
From the African Copperbelt to the back woods of Muskoka, acts of faith tells a story about the power of belief, the disillusionment of youth and the eternal struggle between good and evil. The story follows Faith, a young woman who gets mistaken for a prophet. When a revered religious leader attempts to take advantage of her plight, she begins using her ‘gift’ to right wrongs and punish the wicked. As her spiritual notoriety grows, her own faith gradually erodes, driving her away from her home and the church in a quest for justice. Part Passion narrative, part modern retelling of David and Goliath, acts of faith is an action-adventure in the skin of a catechism. Far from home, Faith will come up against the ultimate test of her convictions in a final confrontation between sin and sainthood, morality and godliness.
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David Yee's 75 minute tour de force, for a single actor, is a compelling collection of vignette-like monologues linked by one young woman's experience as she walks the fine line between the miraculous being and the socially conscious activist whose own life traumas allow her to reach out and ultimately help others to escape from forms of victimization that can occur when power dynamics become unwieldy and profoundly abusive.What could appear at first glance to be a scathing critique of [poorly] organized religion, becomes, by the end, a delicate and powerful balance of stories and almost punch-line-like beginnings to a series of memories that all start with a parable of sorts. This gives the script a strong layered effect, allowing the performer to deliver, with mesmerizing focus, intricate ways of seeing the grey areas between religious experience and the harsh challenges of daily life - the boundaries that move us in and out of personal spirituality toward a realization of how sacred and how profane the world can be.Natasha Mumba gives an extraordinary performance, beginning with relatively subdued, storytelling qualities, always tightly focused on her online audience, and framed exquisitely by the work of impeccable costume, lighting, and set designers. There is an elegant background, a sea of beige'ish folds and sharp-edged walls and windows, that portray a simultaneously open yet cloistered environment - a room the performer/character is confined yet somehow liberated by as she tells her story.
About 45 minutes in - marked seamlessly by subtle shades lifting into pink-ish overtones - the lighting sharply shifts to a strong red hue that enhances the moment and moves us toward a climactic end. Nina Lee Aquino's direction shows an outstanding attention to what is needed in this new era of pandemic - live yet distanced - constrained yet vast - productions. Mumba never falters as the blocking and facial expression is tightly deployed, giving each spectator a front row centre seat to be moved and engaged within.
Acts of Faith is a timely season opening during these very challenging and frightening times, as we witness the journey of a young woman both embraced by and resistant towards a world she struggles to have some control of - despite the ongoing overwhelming forces that confront her. Forces that both belittle and worship her as a harbinger of spirit, wisdom, and a need to tell a story that may help those who find themselves within similar positions.