Saw another moving and entertaining one-person show yesterday: The Art of Traditional Head-tying. Written by Kanika Ambrose (who Alumnae Theatre folks and fans will recognize from After Mrs. Rochester) and directed by Virgilia Griffith, the solo show is running at St. Vladimir’s Theatre as part of Toronto Fringe.
Ambrose takes her character Rosie – and the audience – on a journey from Canada to Dominica, where Rosie was raised by her grandmother, who taught her how to tie various types of head scarves when she was a child. She returns to her homeland to teach a workshop on the art of traditional head-tying and is bitterly disappointed to find her granny’s grave site unkempt, her two lazy nieces too busy partying to take care, and her students too distracted with their day-to-day lives to engage with the class. For Rosie, keeping the tradition of head-tying alive is not just about preserving culture, it is about industry and empowering people with a marketable skill.
Also partly a lesson in culture and cultural dress, the play features information on the topics at hand, including voice-overs from Ms. Annelia Lizina St. Rose, an authority on Dominican head-tying, and Mr. Lennox Honeychurch, a top historian in Domenica. And the program includes illustrations of head-tying styles and a glossary of terms pertaining to traditional wear in Dominica. So if you’re like me and didn’t know a thing about Dominican head-tying when you came to see the show, you’ll walk out knowing a lot more.
Ambrose nimbly shifts from character to character – both physically and vocally – a one-woman cast, playing her two young nieces (one a vacuous material girl and the other a fierce hip hop girl); a niece’s lay-about boyfriend; her charming and cocky childhood friend/sweetheart, now a bus driver; and a cheeky older man she meets at the cemetery.
In the end, a journey that started as a task ends up being one of discovery – a search for home and a longing to connect with her dead grandmother. The place Rosie used to all “home” has changed and her real home is in her heart.
The Art of Traditional Head-tying is a heartwarming piece of one-woman storytelling about culture, family and home – with an engaging cast of characters.
You have one more chance to catch this show: today (July 13) at 9 p.m.