Salt Baby missed the mark

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On one of the stops on their nationwide tour, the play Salt Baby made a stop at The Registry Theatre in Kitchener, this past weekend.

It follows the journey of an Indigenous woman and her struggle to identify her ethnicity. She debates having her DNA tested, but is afraid of the result. Meanwhile, she experiences the hardships of a fair-skinned Indigenous woman with passing privilege. At the same time, she struggles with having a white boyfriend and the pressure of having Indigenous children.

The turnout was very diverse. Notably, there were two Syrian women who were just learning English in attendance with their guide. For them, The Registry Theatre did something that warmed my heart — they used their data projector for subtitles.

As I arrived early, I had the opportunity to explore the lobby, which was filled with art inspired by the musicians of the theatre. This was an excellent way to pass the time and it encouraged the creative thought beyond the stage.

However, I was a bit disappointed with the Salt Baby play.

I had some serious problems with the humour of the play, which came across as very misogynistic at times. A male actor often dressed as female characters and attempted humour of the female gender, as well as a psychic character. There was also a joke about molestation, which got some groans of distaste from the audience.

None of these jokes were motivated by the plot—it so easily could have been avoided. Even if the male actor were to play the female characters again, why make him the butt of the jokes? Why make him a stereotype, when this is what the play is telling viewers to avoid?

This being said, at its core, the themes it stood for in regards to the Indigenous experience were still very strong.

The play discussed identity and passing privilege. From micro-aggressions to downright racism, it was as educational as it was a dramatic performance.

The character for which the play is named, Salt Baby, just wants to feel like she belongs. She doesn’t want to hide her Indigenous culture, but her skin colour makes that nearly impossible unless she vocalizes it.

Another aspect of this play that I enjoyed were that all Indigenous characters (spare one part) were played by real Indigenous actors. Though they were all from the prairie provinces, the play was set around Brantford, giving this an eerily close to home feel.

Overall, I’m not sure if I would recommend the play to another viewer. For me, I’m not sure if the unsettling jokes outweigh the moral messages because they are so conflicting.

What I would recommend, however, is The Registry Theatre. They’re worth venturing out of the university bubble. I’ll certainly be heading back.

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