Makambe K. Simamba has a lot to say. A lot of stories to tell. Tales about being an artist, about being a Black woman living in Alberta, tales about expectations and having moments of vulnerability. Makambe Speaks, produced by Ghost River Theatre in association with Handsome Alice Theatre is a solo show that runs 90 minutes, no intermission.
Makambe used to live, work, and play in Alberta. Then she made the heart wrenching decision to move to Toronto. There, she flourished as an artist, in ways that weren’t even feasible in Alberta. We learn about her relationship to this province through stories about working joe jobs, the jobs that you hold to pay the bills while you toil away at your dream job. The one job that she focuses on is working as a representative for the milk industry, handing out free samples of milk at various county fairs across the province. She meets an older man in Ponoka, whose quick story resonates with her and she still thinks about what he told her, to this day.
We join Makambe as she travels back to Zambia, both as an adult and as a 12 year old girl. We learn about her culture, the way she feels when she goes back and what is considered attractive in her home country.
Lighting design by Steve Isom is pretty simple to put the focus on Makambe and sound designer Kristin Eveleigh fills in the blanks to the changing scenes in the performance.
Makambe Speaks is an evening of stories and some truths that hit hard. Makambe illustrates being confronted with racism and how it chips away at your soul. This is contrasted by a high energy dance sequence and a scene where we listen to Makambe pee. There are jokes, a star crossed lovers story, and some poignant, insightful moments, but the production needs a bit more punch. It needs to dig a bit deeper to resonate. The layer of humour that covers everything doesn’t let the hard truths breathe.
Makambe Speaks runs until May 6th. More information is available online.