who knew grannie? – CrossCurrents Festival

By Crystal Wood


After watching a reading of ahdri zhina mandiela’s who knew grannie? on the final day of the CrossCurrents festival, my first thought was “AMAZING.”

My second thought was “now, how the heck do I write about it?”

The play, which celebrates the life of Grannie as told by 4 cousins (her grandchildren), is written in “dub.”

What’s dub? Well, that’s what I said.

Dub is a form of performance storytelling that is at times poetry, at times percussion. For me it’s not unlike the experience I have with Shakespeare – it’s very rhythmic, it’s very pretty, and I know I’m enjoying it, but I feel like I really have to concentrate or I might miss something important.

The story itself in this production is a simple one: a family member dies, and her relatives celebrate her life. But the uniqueness of each character, from the matronly Velma to the now-incarcerated Tai, adds layer and emotion to the script. Our favourite was Chris, the cooking show host with a “guy friend” disapproved of by the family.

As a workshopped reading, the actors started off onstage sitting in chairs reading their pages off music stands, and I worried that it wouldn’t serve the rapid-fire pace of the script. But soon enough, the characters were dancing and gyrating around the stage. Dub poetry is a full-body experience.

All in all, it was definitely worthwhile. I went in with no idea of what mandiela’s work is like, and came out thinking it was an hour well-spent.

I think I’m in awe of a brain that can put together a dub piece: there are so many voices coming at the audience so quickly in such a musical way that you have to wonder about the creation process.

Now, it might seem a bit of a tease to review a piece that played for only one day. But fear not! who knew grannie is going to be mounted as part of Obsidian Theatre’s upcoming season, and I would recommend you all check it out.

The bad news: After the show, CrossCurrents artistic producer Nina Lee Aquino announced she was moving on to other professional opportunities. Good luck, Nina!

The good news: On the final day of CrossCurrents, there are free snacks!