Friday, November 20, 2020

acts of faith

Pictured: Natasha Mumba; Photo by Dahlia Katz (all photos by Dahlia Katz)

program synopsis;

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.

for cast, crew, and production details see;

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.

The script embraces a global geography, yet frequently frames it all within a specifically Southern Ontarian, decidedly colonialist  context that is both critical and enduring - at times indirectly illustrating the particular ways in which mythic national identity-mongering creates faulty iconic truths out of national mythology.

References to Etobicoke, Toronto in general, and the Muskoka Lakes area, give the overall piece an engaging and fascinating topical tone - by the end haunting - that conjures images of the iconic places some audience members may perceive - through David Yee's articulate and poetic narrative gaze - as simultaneously bountiful, beautiful, and banal. 

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.

Admission is free of charge, however audiences will have to register in advance on Factory Theatre's website to secure a spot for their preferred performance night ( Information on how to access the live streamed performance will be sent out to registered audience members via email 24 hrs before the performance. acts of faith will be performed for six nights - NOVEMBER 19, 20, 21 & 26, 27, 28 at 7:30PM. Each show is performed live and will be streamed to registered audience members watching from home via Factory Theatre's website.

David Yee

David Yee is a mixed race actor and playwright, born and raised in Toronto. He is the co-founding Artistic Director of fu-GEN Theatre Company, Canada’s premiere professional Asian Canadian theatre company. A Dora Mavor Moore Award nominated actor and playwright, his work has been produced internationally and at home. He is a two-time Governor General’s Literary Award nominee for his plays lady in the red dress and carried away on the crest of a wave, which won the award in 2015 along with the Carol Bolt Award in 2013. He has worked extensively in the Asian Canadian community as an artist and an advocate. He has been called many things, but prefers ‘outlaw poet’ to them all.

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