Monday, 20 May 2013

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK: Meet this season's bonafide scene-stealers: Shawna-Kae Burns, Neekah Whyte, and Keisha Patterson

The most riveting moments in Dahlia Harris' Thicker Than Water come near the end of the show's first half, but not at the hands of seasoned stars Harris and Suzette Barrett. Instead, relative newcomer Shawna-Kae Burns reels in viewers with her rich character work as the scheming, no-nonsense Natalee. It's a captivating, award-baiting performance from an actress, who also earned critical huzzahs recently for her work in Fabian Thomas' vision of In The Red and Brown Water. It will be interesting to see if Burns can gain some momentum heading into awards season later this year. 

Another scene-stealer of note these days is Keisha Patterson, the veteran singer-actress who delivers some of the finest stage work of her career as a my-way-or-the-highway babymama in David Tulloch's relationship dramedy Paternal Instinct. Sassy and instinctively savvy, Patterson reveals a gift for spiky comedy, even as she mines the play's more intensely dramatic moments with highly commendable results. Certainly one to watch this season. 

I'm also keeping an eye on Neekah Whyte of the School of Drama, who impressed me greatly with a bravura turn as a put-upon matriarch in Blood Wedding, a sharply acted, well-made take on the Lorca classic. By all appearances, Whyte possesses power, presence, and personality in almost equal measure and she brings all of these fine qualities (and more) to the stage. Naturally, I'm intrigued to see what (or whom) she will play next.

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