Thursday, February 22, 2024

Acclaimed explosive dramedy play ‘Bang Bang’ debuts in Victoria

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Kat Sandler’s acclaimed play, ‘Bang Bang’ is as boisterous and bold as its name suggests. 

Opening in Victoria on Halloween night, the play leaps headfirst into systemic racism, intent vs. impact, the power of story, and the slippery nature of truth. 

Sandler infuses these big ideas with breakneck dialogue and disarming wit. The audience laughed, cried, and ostensibly left feeling shaken to the core.

To Set the Scene

Lila (Beverly Ndukwu) is a black (former) police officer who shot an unarmed black youth two years ago and now lives with her mother Karen (Warona Setshwaelo). 

Tim (Tom Keenan) is a white playwright whose most recent work is “inspired” by Lila’s story. However, while the boy that Lila shot lived, Tim’s play kills him off. This fundamental change in his story has amplified Lila’s public harassment and subsequent depression, and Tim’s announcement that a major motion picture is in the works is sure to make it all much worse. The tension escalates when the potential star of the film Jackie (Sébastien Heins) and his bodyguard Tony (Alex Poch-Goldin) burst in minutes later.

Tom Keenan (Tim Bernbaum) and Beverly Ndukwu (Lila Hines) in Bang Bang by Kat Sandler / Photo by Dylan Hewlett

The actors deliver high-octane, perfectly timed performances. Lila is depressed and drinking steadily, but her protective bravado persists. Karen’s clear concern for her daughter manifests largely in withering, take-no-sh*t exchanges with Tim, whose blustering grows steadily wilder as he keeps pace with Lila’s beers. Jackie’s over-the-top child star swagger and Tony’s tough-guy posturing and creatively foul mouth introduce the characters as stereotypes, but these archetypes are toyed with and broken down over the course of the play.

Bang Bang, a play within a play, embraces its meta nature to the nth degree. The characters comment on the setting, the music, and the methodology of actors. They discuss breaking the fourth wall, acknowledge the existence of the audience, implicate us within their story. This is about us, too.

Bang Bang’s living room setting starts out cosy and warm and gets warmer, hotter, frenetic and frothy. This play does not tiptoe. It stomps and shouts and throws chairs. The characters talk over each other so often and so quickly that it grabs your attention when there’s only one voice. Who listens and who doesn’t is as important as the words being said: Jackie reiterates how much he wants to know and understand Lila’s story, while Tim shouts over her about how respectful he is.

Alex Poch-Goldin (Tony Cappello), Tom Keenan (Tim Bernbaum), and Beverly Ndukwu (Lila Hines) in Bang Bang by Kat Sandler / Photo by Dylan Hewlett

Kat Sandler is herself a white playwright writing black characters. Tim’s character serves to highlight how fraught it can be to create personas whose experiences are not in any way your own. He defends himself ceaselessly when challenged on his execution, his ability, and his right as an artist to create whatever he wants. He cites his extensive Googling as sufficient “woke” credentials, but spouts endless microaggressions that mount to the macro.

Bang Bang will dig into your mind and open it for you, be it with slow, creeping discomfort or explosively, all of a sudden. We give it a 4.5/5 rating.

Catch the show at The Belfry Theatre until November 24th.

 

Bang Bang

  • When: October 31st – November 24th
  • Where: The Belfry Theatre, 1291 Gladstone Ave
  • Admission: Tickets start at $20. Click here to purchase
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Hannah Koning
UVic student and Freelance Writer at Victoria Buzz. If you’ve got a story, I probably want to write it: hannahrzkoning@gmail.com

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