BWW Review: Selina Thompson's salt. Is Both A Release Of Rage And A Healing Ritual
"Europe was pushing against me, so I just kept pushing back," writes Selina Thompson in her autobiographical solo drama of cultural discovery, salt.
As a black woman of Jamaican heritage living in England, to correctly answer "Leeds" to the question, "Where are you from?, frequently led to the infuriating feeling of otherness provoked by a follow-up, "But where are you really from?"
salt., making its American premiere at The Public Theater's Martinson Hall as part of this year's Under The Radar Festival, might be taken as her attempt to satisfactorily answer that question on her own terms.
Clear plastic goggles are placed on each chair as the audience enters, and as the play commences, actor Rochelle Rose, who plays the role originated by the author, explains that when she puts on her goggles, viewers should do the same.
She stands beneath a neon triangle, representing the infamous Triangle Trade; shipping routes that for hundreds of years enriched the economies of Europe and America through the capturing and transporting of Africans who were sold into slavery.
Seeing the beauty and artistry of the continent she calls home as being built from the profits of "suffering, death, and massacre" she and a companion take passage on a cargo ship to follow that same journey to Ghana, then Jamaica and back to England.
The play doesn't so much tell a story, but instead reveals a small collection of anecdotes and observations, penned with poetic textures and, under Dawn Walton's direction, told with captivating spirit by Rose.
As expected, she endures the indignity of the ship's casual racism and sexism. At Ghana's Elmina Castle, she grieves for the countless men and women who were held there under inhumane conditions while waiting to be sent to a continent where their lives would be purchased. But there is comfort in Jamaica that comes with the admiration of the island's natural beauty and the feeling of acceptance.
The goggles? They're put to use during sequences where the storyteller places a large chunk of glimmering pink rock salt center stage and pounds it into pieces with a sledgehammer. At once, it can be seen as a release of rage, a healing, meditative ritual and a symbolic gesture involving the life sustaining substance.
salt. can also be seen as both a release of rage and a healing ritual. Its power is in the human need to find one's own truth and its beauty is in the desire to share it.