Photo courtesy of d’bi.young.
d’bi.young‘s new one-woman show benu is one of the strongest pieces we’ve seen at this year’s SummerWorks. Although this production, directed by Natasha Mytnowych, is technically a workshop presentation, and young does perform the show script-in-hand, her thrilling performance style makes her play seem more put together than a lot of non-works-in-progress.
benu tells the story of its titular hero, a young Jamaican woman who lives in Mississauga and becomes pregnant with her first child. Although she loves the idea of being a mother, the realities of single parenthood and postpartum depression take her to some very dark places. Scenes jump back and forth in time, and occasionally slide into the dub poetry territory in which young has made such a name for herself. Mostly, she plays benu, although it’s wonderful to see her chameleon-like ability to transform herself into other characters. Particularly impressive is her turn as Paul, benu’s all-too-real douchey boyfriend. But the different layers and aspects of benu’s personality are just as fascinating to watch. She goes from childish glee, to playful seduction, to sobering anger and anxiety, all the while remaining recognizable as the same woman.
If you’ve never seen d’bi.young perform before, this is a fantastic chance to see one of the city’s most talented, energetic, and joyful performers premiere a new work. Stick around after for the Q&A, and you’ll be treated to some amazing “tambran” (tamarind) balls, the delicious snack benu keeps referencing throughout the play. Yum!
benu is next performed tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. at the Passe Muraille Mainspace.
SummerWorks runs until August 16 at various locations around the city. Check back for Torontoist’s daily coverage throughout the festival.