Reviewed by Guy Picot

The Actors Company on Formosa seems even further from the heart of things than usual in this year’s sparsely populated Fringe, but I ventured that far west for my first taste of the festival and was glad I did.

Lead actress, Makena Hammond, a former naval physician turned actress/model/playwright, and an AADA graduate.

In BLACK WOMAN IN DEEP WATER, writer/performer Makena Hammond has created a powerful and thought-provoking show based on the true, and truly harrowing, story of runaway slave Margaret Garner. Eschewing the current trend for chatty familiarity in one-person shows, Hammond instead dares to be fully immersed in her three characters. There are some early attempts at low-level audience participation (getting us to pronounce some African words), but this just serves to remind us that the story being told is outside of our comfort zone and bigger than us.

Hammond brings a proud and imposing physical presence, matching the text, which has the weight of the written word. The piece started life as a  writing assignment and it retains a whiff of academia but is none the worse for that; it is clearly a well-researched labor of love.

Direction by Jane Fleiss is spare and appropriate, the transitions between characters are unhurried and stately, the movement measured and precise. It is hard to summon up the epic and profound in a black-box with minimal props and tech, but Hammond and Fleiss have managed it. 

The well-attended performance I saw ended with a standing ovation.