Sound of the Beast opens
Black Theatre Workshop’s 50th year
Donna-Michelle St. Bernard uses spoken word in a hip-hop way to speak truth to power
By Byron Toben
Montréal’s Black Theatre Workshop is the oldest English theatre group in Canada creating and showing its own works since 1968. Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille is the second oldest such, starting in 1969.
Thus it was a match well made for the former to bring the latter’s one-person show The Sound of the Beast here after its long run there in this year of golden anniversaries (The Centaur is also celebrating its 50th, but did not set out at first to develop its own plays.)
The title Sound of the Beast is also the name of the 2004 book about the history of head banging heavy metal bands so do not confuse them. Or maybe you should. As creator/performer Donna-Michelle St. Bernard leads off with a long tirade against the audience (a stand-in for the greater world outside) with a tsunami of “Fuck You’s” not heard since the 1987 play The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine.
We’re in for a long night, me thought, at first. (I’m not shocked or prurient, but just bored with the phrase’s overuse in most all-new presentations.)
But after that, things picked up. Ms St. Bernard, a two-time Governor General’s Award nominee uses spoken word in a hip-hop way to “speak truth to power”. She dedicates this piece to Tunisian Weld-El 15 who was jailed for his song Boulicia Kleb (the Police are Dogs).
Montreal theatregoers may remember her first play Gas Girls at the Segal Centre studio four years ago. Since then, this native of Grenada has written six other plays.
She (St. Bernard) dedicates this piece to Tunisian Weld-El 15 who was jailed for his song Boulicia Kleb (the Police are Dogs).
In a post event chat, I was pleasantly surprised that Ms St. Bernard was familiar with my own growing up love of Jack Kerouac’s reading of poems to cool jazz during the Ferlinghetti “beatnik” era of the late 50s/early 60s. Her own pieces smack somewhat of Alan Ginsberg’s classic Howl tirade against greed. Sound of the Beast rails against poverty, systemic injustice and even bad dancing.
The whole ably co-directed by Passe Muraille head honcho Andy McKim and dramaturge Jivesh Parasram. Mr McKim came in to Montreal for the opening.
Sound of the Beast opened at the MAI on October 3 and closes on October 14 at 3 pm.
Call 514 982-3386 or check out blacktheatreworkshop.ca
Feature image: Donna-Michelle St. Bernard © Theatre Passe Muraille
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.