Nathan Howe and Dakota Ray Herbert star as Alligator and Salt Baby in the new Belfry Theatre play named for the lead female character. Courtesy Belfry Theatre

REVIEW: Salt Baby’s search for identity begins at the Belfry

New stage show has plenty of story to work with, but the characters sometimes get lost in the mix

By Sheila Martindale

Monday Magazine contributor

Identity crises are not unusual. There are migrants and refugees, with a foot in each of two camps, not really belonging to either. There are foreign-service workers, moving around the globe and never feeling fully comfortable anywhere.

In Salt Baby, the new show at The Belfry Theatre, we have a young aboriginal woman who appears white (hence the ‘salt’) and yet clings to her native heritage, wishing she were browner. Her relationship with a white man is influenced by the search for her real identity, and her foray into Internet dating, which specifies ethnic origins, turns out to be unsatisfying, if not disastrous.

Dakota Ray Herbert captures the spirit of this feisty young woman in all her different moods. We applaud her sense of humour and are delighted by her charm. But we do get a little weary of her obsession, as does her live-in partner, who goes by the odd name of Alligator. Nathan Howe is well cast as this likeable character. The interesting role of Salt Baby’s father is undertaken by Timothy Hill, who does the jokester rather well.

I suppose the gold star for versatility goes to Colin Dingwall, who plays the deceased grandfather, as well as a variety of other oddball characters, each one more bizarre than the last and portrayed totally over the top. He also gets the prize for being a quick-change artist.

Apart from the real muddle of who is who, since no one is really addressed by name on stage, and the programme is not very much help, the fault of this play lies in the fact that it tries too hard. And it does not really make us care about the people it showcases. If we don’t identify with at least one person, we can’t get behind the action. Salt Baby herself is the most sympathetic character, but even she can be tiresome at times.

Having said that, Tamara Marie Kucheran deserves kudos for an interesting and functional set, with its Ikea-like furnishings. The actors spend a lot of time moving hollow boxes about, which makes for significant choreography. Some of the sound effects are overpowering, and I’m pretty sure they make a point.

Salt Baby is an addition to the opus of First Nations writing, aimed at highlighting the value and importance of Indigenous culture, and we need to recognize that. But playwright and director Falen Johnson could take a tip from Drew Hayden Taylor, a mixed Ojibway and Caucasian playwright and author, who mused in a Globe and Mail essay: “Fighting over status/non-status, Métis, skin colour etc., only increases the sense of dysfunction in our community.”

editor@mondaymag.com

Just Posted

THE FIERY FLAMENCO: Annual festival set to heat up Victoria

Performances free and ticketed, plus workshops, highlight celebration of the dance

Emily Carr String Quartet set for summer concert in Sooke

Sooke Harbour House concert on July 29

31st annual TD Art Gallery Paint-In promises something for every taste in art, food

Moss Street from Fort to Dallas will be covered, with artists, vendors, and attendees this July 21

ARTISTS TOUR: Follow the fish to Metchosin and East Sooke

Stinking Fish group presents its annual summer studio tour July 27-31

MusicFest weekend in the Comox Valley ‘fantastic’

Walk Off the Earth, other acts liven up annual music festival in Comox Valley

Big-time racing on tap in Langford this month

Western Speedway the place to be for a roaring good time in summer

Black Press videographer to direct full-length feature, wins Telefilm grant worth $125,000

Arnold Lim to expand story of All-In Madonna with writer Susie Winters, producer Ana de Lara

Five fun things to do this weekend

From a paint in to festivals, there are lots of fun events taking place this weekend

Saanich Fair: An idea is born

The attaining of a 150th year anniversary is a notable event in… Continue reading

Reviews are in for B.C.-shot ‘Skyscraper’ action movie

City’s film liaison recalls four days of filming at city hall last fall, with Dwayne Johnson on set

B.C. singer up against Shania Twain for Canadian country music award

Madeline Merlo and Shania Twain are two of five nominees for female artist of the year.

Nicolas Cage films in B.C. town

Hollywood actor filming A Score to Settle in North Okanagan

Canadian actress Sandra Oh makes Emmys history with ‘Killing Eve’ nomination

Oh made history as the first Asian woman to be nominated for an Emmy Award for lead actress in a drama series.

Most Read