Oraltorio: A Theatrical Mixtape is loud, in your face, pro-feminist Black expression

Motion and DJ L'Oqenz's revolutionary theatrical mixtape uses hip-hop and spoken world to explore Black womanhood


ORALTORIO: A THEATRICAL MIXTAPE by Motion and DJ L’Oqenz (Obsidian/Soulpepper). At the Young ­Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House). Runs to October 20. $25-$35. See listing. Rating: NNNNN


Is a psychedelic romp through Black consciousness enough to put the soul in Soulpepper? Oraltorio stars DJ L’Oqenz and Motion, two women who use hip-hop and spoken word to tell a story that’s seldom heard – that of the Black woman.

But this isn’t your mom’s negro spiritual. This is loud, in your face, uncompromising pro-feminist Black expression. Salt-N-Pepa ain’t got nothing on this duo.

The patriarchy has been holding Motion down for a minute. This is a world where men of God rail against female preachers and white people decry Black music while dancing to Elvis. Her only solace is the boombox in her room and rhythm in her heart.

The soundtrack comes courtesy of L’Oqenz, a pro in athletic wear rocking a deep fade. Armed with a set of turntables, L’Oqenz paints the sonic landscape as Motion comes into her womanhood. Skits of life interwoven with absurdist commentary are all backed by 90s throwback jams. Motion is the ultimate entertainer, bouncing between minstrel show to spitting bars on the Five Percent Nation.

It’s not all song and dance, though. Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu seems to be telling us: if you’re going to enjoy the bodies and music of Black folk, you also have to know how it really is. Police headlights laser into your corneas as the sound of gunfire erupts and you’re told not to resist. The entertainment is juxtaposed with traumatic experiences people of colour will be all too familiar with. Suffice it to say, on opening night, white people in the audience looked shook AF, which is the point.

Kudos to lighting designer André du Toit for correctly lighting these melaninated queens. The projections and effects splatter vivid scenery across the black stage, reflecting off warped mirrors.

But the visuals are never overwhelming, serving only to amplify what is happening. Don’t get too lost in the music or you might miss one of the many coded jokes. The revolution won’t be televised it’s happening live at a theatre near you.

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