Review: “Sound of the Beast” brings systemic racism to the forefront in poignant and poetic production

Award-winning artist's multimedia piece makes its Montreal Premiere at the MAI

Donna-Michelle St. Bernard in “Sound of the Beast” (Photo: Michael Cooper)

Canada’s longest running Black theatre company, Black Theatre Workshop triumphantly opens its 2018-19 artistic season this October with Sound of the Beast – a Theatre Passe Muraille production that first premiered in Toronto in 2017 and is now touring the country to make its Montreal premiere at the MAI.

In her solo tour de force show Sound of the Beast, wordsmith Donna-Michelle St. Bernard bridges hip hop and political activism in a harrowingly honest commentary on systemic racism, social injustice, and freedom of artistic expression. Part theatre/part concert, the playwright-performer speaks truth to power using original works of spoken word, rhyme through rap, and monologues to share accounts of police oppression against the Black community.

Currently on a mission to create 54 different performance pieces inspired by each of the countries of Africa as part of her 54-ology Project, the two-time Governor General’s Award Nominee’s visiting instalment is shaped by the true story of Tunisian emcee Weld-El 15 (born Ala Yaacoubi) – who was jailed in 2013 for insulting cops with his song Boulicia Kleb (The Police Are Dogs). Interspersed between fragments of his narrative are tales from St. Bernard’s own lived experiences as a Black female artist in Toronto interacting with figures of authority. From being slow-cruised on streets at dawn to being badgered on stage at dusk, her collection of personal stories of racial profiling and vicious engagements with institutional power most urgently exposes a neglected everyday reality.


Donna-Michelle St. Bernard in her one-woman show “Sound of the Beast” (Photo: Michael Cooper)

Here, however, emcee “Belladonna the Blest” is in full command. Sound of the Beast showcases her magnetic stage presence, quick wit, and hip-hop artistry in what is a compelling feat of poetic storytelling that disarms and moves. Confident and composed, St. Bernard excels in establishing an immediate performer-audience connection and rises above expressions of rage to carry forth a performance that is as poignant as it is playful. Utterly affecting.

Despite leaving some loose ends on threads of narrative, Sound of the Beast succeeds in fostering an increased awareness of police brutality among a marginalized community by reflecting on questions of racism with humble introspection and bold sincerity.

Don’t miss this unique, vital voice – among one of the most individually potent to grace our stages this season – at the MAI until October 14th.




Black Theatre Workshop presents a Theatre Passe Muraille production
Written & performed by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard
Directed by Andy McKim & Jivesh Parasram

Dates: October 3rd to 14th, 2018 – Montreal Premiere

Venue: MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels)
3680, rue Jeanne Mance

Box Office: (514) 982-3386 | Online ticket purchases here
$27 – Regular | $24 – Senior | $22 – Student/Pro Artist | $19 – Groups/Preview (University) (10+ tickets) | $16 – Student group (HS & CEGEP) (20+ tickets, free teachers tickets for each 20 Students)

Running time: 85 minutes without intermission

For more information:
http://www.blacktheatreworkshop.ca/sound-of-the-beast/

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