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Review: Stori Ya

Posted by Katelyn / November 28, 2011

28112011_StoriYa.jpg"This is my home," sais Maria Msondo, "Welcome." Maria expresses her gratitude in a mix of English, Swahili and Nyanwezi and gushes that she has cooked her guests a delectable filet mignon supper. She is being evicted and wants to celebrate her last night in her home.

The atmosphere in the darkly-lit Mai centre quickly loses its conviviality, however, when Maria begins to unravel the story of her life. Raised by her grandparents in her native Tanzania, Maria was shipped off to Canada at age 13 to be reunited with her mother, only to be molested by her white step father for the duration of her teenage years.

The phrase that Maria repeats to an excess, "This is my home," begins to resonate as the audience discovers that her home is the only thing the 42-year-old woman has left. After her abusive husband, with their adopted daughter in tow, disappeared to Tanzania to mooch off of her relatives, Maria was left with insurmountable financial debt and a lifetime's worth of letdowns.

Stori Ya is one-woman play, performed by the exceptionally talented Botswana-born actress Warona Setshwaelo and written by Joan M. Kivanda. Presented by Black Theatre Workshop and directed by Millie Tresierra, it is running until Dec. 4 at the Mai centre.

To tell her story, Maria takes on the role of the various characters that have shaped her destiny and sculpted her outlook. Setshwaelo succeeds in reconstructing these characters with exceptional depth and skill through a series of flashbacks, acting out the role of Maria's grandmother, deceased childhood friend, mother and even her child-self. One could easily forget that Stori Ya is a one-woman play; the combination of live-African music, dancing, traditional story-telling and monologue left no room for lulls.

The set design is minimal and in no way resembles a living room or kitchen. In the centre of the glossy black-tiled stage stands a platform on which a tower of wooden chairs is oddly-stacked. Setshwaelo moves around the installation as she speaks, and one can imagine her pacing from room to room as she begs her audience, with increasing desperation, to help her as the authorities ought to be arriving at any moment to give her the boot.

While at times gruelling, the repetitive quality of the script mirrors the process one goes through while attempting to reflect upon and articulate ones identity.

Stori Ya
By Joan Kivanda
Evenings: Wednesdays to Saturdays, 8 p.m.
Matinees: Sundays, 3:30 p.m.
Runs Nov. 16 - Dec. 4, 2011 at the Mai centre



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