Presented by Deconstruction Productions
At the heart of X and Da Spirit is an expansive mural that lines the back of the stage and extends out towards the audience. Designed by Chris Leal, this is a recreation of an existing one in Toronto—a tribute to the many Black people killed by police and a call to action. Familiar protest slogans—“ACAB,” “I Can’t Breath” and “No Justice, No Peace”—figure prominently.
Happening upon the mural and drawn to it, X (Donovan Hayden), discovers “da spirit of the struggle,” a mystical force of communal grief and passionate resistance contained within it. Inspired by its call, he engages in local protest against police brutality.
Feeling beaten down by what he considers a lack of progress, he voices his frustration at da spirit and meets the graffiti artist, MC (Trinity Lloyd), who created the mural. She challenges him to not only accept the defeats, but recognize and celebrate the wins.
Written by Donovan, based on his encounter with the actual mural at the centre of this story, this captures the sense of an average guy discovering something extraordinary within himself.
Director Rais Clarke-Mendes creates a fluid theatrical environment that allows Lloyd and Hayden to break the fourth wall and interact with us without it feeling like a break in the show. This audience participation is moderate—some prompted chanting, but the most rewarding interaction imparts practical tips for safeguarding yourself in confrontations with police during a protest.
Combined with the graffiti, spoken word and rap further the street art aesthetic which is stylish and compelling. The gravity of the loss and the fierce anger are conveyed very gently; I expected a more hard-hitting experience, though this does feel authentic and relevant.