Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera is a powerful solo show that blurs the boundaries along the edges of theatre to incorporate elements of R&B, rap and musical performance to tell a classic story of brotherhood, escape from poverty, and redemption.
This show is truly a tour-de-force from creator/performer Sébastien Heins. To begin, the text does an outstanding job of giving voice to a diverse range of characters, and Heins transitions smoothly through broad physical characterizations to embody them. Giving each of the characters a unique musical style for their particular moods also serves Heins well; it allows him to draw on the long traditions of soul, funk, and hip hop music to provide the audience with touchstone clues for what kind of people they are, and their role in the story.
This all combines to create a cast of stock characters who together populate a world that’s more mythological than real. We meet an abusive father, a pair of brothers on either side of an innocent/corrupted split, a manipulative agent, and a spurned lover. The thing about mythologies is that they’re meant to be both foundational to how we see ourselves, at the same time as they are bigger and more dramatic than daily life. The pop lyrics that build up the individual personalities, and their comic-book physicalities play right into this idea. Furthermore, the plot of the piece itself is self-consciously stock, and Heins plays skillfully with this too.
For all that stories like this have been told before, telling this particular story on the stage in this way that combines elements of our culture that are not often brought into the theatre strikes me as a powerful commentary on where our society has come from. That said, this mythology doesn’t really reprise or reclaim these elements for a new purpose. None of the dreams, motivations, foibles, or relationships of the characters ask me to think about humans in a new way, even as the telling of them challenges the idea of what kind of stories belong in the theatre and how to tell them.
A B Current and Sébastien Heins Co-production
Written and Performed by Sébastien Heins
Directed and Dramaturged by Karin Randoja
Set and Costumes by Anahita Dehbonhie
Lighting and Stage Managememt by Jacinthe Lalonde
Sound Design and Music Co-composition by Miquelon Rodriguez
Production Design by Jonathan Inksetter