This is a student production so be prepared for less than professional level acting; the upside of student productions is the price is much more affordable. What I liked the most about the production was the staging. The sets were very creative and worked well for the play. The props, soundscape, and blocking worked well for the most part. The costumes were pleasing although they didn't tend to support an understanding of the characters.
What didn't work for me was the actor's speech. Doing Shakespeare without an English accent can be challenging but doing Shakespeare without breathing and projecting is almost pointless. Generally the actors spoke too quickly and often swallowed their lines. The action suffered by us not being able to follow the motivations and intentions of each character through their words. Given the cast were all 4th year or final year students of the theatre school it was surprising to see that they are not being schooled for the stage. Perhaps they are pursuing careers in film and video only?
The Freddie Wood theatre is a very nice small theatre with great seating and acoustics. A word to the wise - parking at UBC is expensive and the theatre is not close to the bus lines so be prepared to pay a little more for parking or walk a little farther to and from public transportation.
William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing is on at UBC's Freddie Wood Theatre until Nov 24th.
Tickets at: https://www.arts.ubc.ca/events/event/much-ado-about-nothing/
~ reviewed by Evelyn McKelvie
This United Players’ adaptation of The Suppliant Women by Aeschylus is strained by an ensemble of varying experience. The haunting chants of the women helps set the stage with a sense of doom and despair although their dialogue is disjointed in many instances. Perhaps it’s my limited interest and exposure to Greek mythology, but much of the story and theatrics seemed overplayed and drawn out, other than the king’s well done monologue which addresses the ongoing debate of action vs. inaction. The message in the end is clear but I struggled with the journey.
The Suppliant Women by the United Players is playing at the Jericho Arts Centre until 2 December 2018. Tickets at: http://www.unitedplayers.com/Pages/Season.html
~ reviewed by Karen Roller
Man meets woman after the war. They connect. A flashback to WWII to the beginning of the story. The stories of the men in a Stalag Luft III POW camp are being enacted by seven women. The play is based on the recollections of playwright Amiel Gladstone’s Grandfather and this story was also depicted in the movie The Great Escape. The movie had an all male cast in accordance with the real characters. Yet, somehow, the women playing the roles of the men feels completely organic in today’s world.
The set design is very Spartan and reflects the different sceneries. It transforms seamlessly from an aircraft to the camp and then to the tunnel all in full view of the audience. Jacqueline Firkins as costumer cleverly dressed the performers in khaki jumpsuits and thus the women appear asexual and their references to each other by their male names seems natural. The prisoners of war tell relate to us how they spent three winters trying to escape their Nazi captors. This was done with most inventive ingenuity and at a great sacrifice. Fat from soup, pj cords, bed slats, chairs and tin cans were used to fashion tools and equipment to dig the tunnels. The last one was finished in March 1945.
Ghazal Azarbad, Raylene Harewood, Olivia Hutt, Camille Legg, Julia Siedlanowska, Naomi Vogt and Libby Willoughby were well chosen to depict the captured soldiers. With their assertive voices they convey to the audience the stories of the Allied soldiers. Some are sad and others are filled with humour.
This play is poignant with the upcoming anniversary of Remembrance Day on November 11, 2018. The Historic Theatre at The Cultch is easily accessible by public transit. It runs until November 17, 2018.
Tickets at: https://thecultch.com/events/three-winters/
~ reviewed by Tara K. Torme
A poignant and well-researched production, SmallWaR's use of authentic quotes and transcripts from real soldiers and nurses deployed at war made Valentijn Dhaenens' task a difficult and profound one. By creating multiple characters, which he played via pre-recorded video projections and audio, Dhaenen brought to life many different stories - each one moving in its own unique way. The small adjustments Dhaenen made to represent each character were subtle and effective. Just enough to understand what he was doing, but never over the top. The subject matter of SmallWaR was difficult and at times the emotional content of the piece was gratuitous and even dramatized. This, however, is justified considering the difficulty level of what Dhaenen was attempting, and the brutality and horror of what he was describing - all of it found in real transcripts created from real experiences.
SmallWaR, co-produced by SKaGeN (Belgium), Richard Jordan Productions & Theatre Royal Plymouth (UK), is part of the CeaseFire Series presented by the Cultch.
Tickets at: https://thecultch.com/events/smallwar/
~ reviewed by Madisen Steele
In Khalil Ashanti’s most recent piece, Razor, presented by TheatreWire, he guides you through a significant and challenging time in his life where he’s torn between his craft of acting/entertainment and a world of practicality. As a one man show Ashanti presents a variety of distinct characters that help him determine his chosen path in life. Sometimes humorous, and sometimes dark but always very real, he reminds his audience that it’s not always those that should have your back that are the ones that you find the best support and advice from. I’m not convinced that he goes deep enough with some of the characters although his presentation is on point and entertaining throughout. I’d be interested to see if the piece evolves through future iterations in his upcoming fringe tour.
Razor is playing at Studio 1398 until 9 November 2018.
Tickets at: https://tickets.theatrewire.com/shows/razor/events
~ reviewed by Karen Roller
Ballet BC is my favourite performing arts company in Vancouver by far - their level of excellence and dedication to exploring fresh and innovative ways to express story through movement is impressively consistent. Each program typically consists of three pieces, one world premiere, one Canadian premiere and one revisited favourite. I find this especially satisfying on evenings like tonight where each piece was so different from the others.
Enemy in the Figure - Canadian Premiere - Choreography by William Forsythe
The description in the program is more accurate in describing this piece than I could ever attempt to be. I found it simultaneously fascinating and sinister. The soundscape made me feel like I was in some sort of horror movie - a feeling intensified by the movement of bodies just out of sight, sometimes clambering against the walls on stage. Desperate to enter or to escape? Just one floodlight, manipulated by the dancers, threw shadows and light across the stage, creating interesting shapes in the darkness with sudden reveals as dancers spring into the light and occasionally plunging others into complete darkness. I usually make up stories for pieces like this, my brain creating my own thematic interpretation. For this piece I had only moments, left to wonder at an unnerving mystery.
To this day - World Premiere - Choreography by Emily Molnar
The personification of sound. Set to some gorgeous classic Blues tunes, the dancers embody each guitar riff, twang and drumbeat. A large ensemble dressed in bright colours were all the sensuality, sass and passion that is the Blues. One of the exciting things about Molnar as a choreographer is the way she uses silence. The songs were woven together with mini narratives performed in silence, one of which was possibly the most brilliant physical comedy I have ever seen. It's not often than you hear the entire audience guffaw at the Ballet. For me this piece was the most free, expressive and soulful of the evening.
Petite Cérémonie - Ballet BC 2011- Choreography by Medhi Walerski
This piece was the most true to what I think of as the "signature style" of Ballet BC's ensemble storytelling. In formal dress the dancers explored the different ways in which we feel boxed in by life - the oppressive expectations of others, the superficiality of small talk, and the dynamics of romantic relationships. The ways in which we can feel isolated from a group, the way we feel the push and pull of a significant other, arguments, and loneliness were all expressed through movement, dialogue and a surprising monologue that made this quite the character piece.
Ballet BC's runs in Vancouver are very short, but they tour internationally and collaborate with the best of the best in the world. If you've never attended a performance of theirs, do yourself a favour and attend one of their UPCOMING programs.
Tickets for Ballet BC are available at: https://balletbc.com/
~ reviewed by Danielle Benzon
Words. Videos. Images. Clicked links. Thoughts. Mixed Messages. Smoke And Mirrors. Right Wing Extremism. Hate. Violence. Bring and register your phone. You will interact with Javaad Alipoor as he presents this thought provoking work on Middle East & ISIS Extremist & the power of the internet. Chat rooms and memes connect people who feel disconnected from their actual community on one forum. There they post their extremist views on various topics and share controversial, even racist pictures.
Alipoor, the British performer, writer and co-director relates to the audience the stories of the young males or boys, as he calls them, who don’t feel that they belong. He brings home his points by texting and sending material to the audience. These misfits join extremist chat groups. Here anyone can express his/her views without reprisal. Anything goes. Some also make the trek to become part of Isis and find themselves somewhat unprepared.
It is a story about young men who feel undervalued and are searching for a leader. They are tech-savy and thus are poised to influence an outcome that promises their view for the greater good over evil. They fight for Muslims – Allah. They support Trump – Hail Donald Trump. Their truth is black or white. Bush initiated this with “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”.
This play is complex with many layers. Current world events are hi-lighted. Hate is still a dominant force. The Big Question is on the distribution and accessibility of news and facts. What is fake news and how does this influence our lives. The politics of this are felt world wide.
The Believers Are But Brothers, created by Javaad Alipoor and Kirsty Housley (UK), part of Diwali in BC, is part of the Ceasefire series at the Cultch. Easily accessible by public transit, this 65 minute play runs until November 10, 2018.Tickets at: https://thecultch.com/events/the-believers-are-but-brothers/
~ reviewed by Tara K. Torme
The beautiful promotional images don't even half do this show justice. And while standing ovations can sometimes feel obligatory in the small Vancouver theatre scene, I have never been a part of a more complete, enthusiastic and vocally appreciative standing ovation than the one at the opening night of Backbone at the Playhouse Theatre. The piece is a combination or circus and physical theatre. Not with a narrative per se, but with strong images, themes, and a beautifully sculpted through-line that will leave you feeling not only awe-inspired by the strength, flexibility and daring of the performers in the kaleidoscope of movement that flurries across the stage, but also emotionally and intellectually satisfied.
One of the things I loved most about this production was how much FUN these performers where having! Melody, my date for the evening, even saw one of the women, as she was flying through the air being thrown from one group on the stage to another, and then another, stick her tongue out mid-air at one of the other performers she was flying by. While these acrobats are obviously dedicated to their craft and while their team work and focus and high level of communication is evident, there's also a deep sense of play, of camaraderie and joyful competition as they tease one another, test one another and explore what they are capable of as individuals and as a group. To have ten bodies moving at top speed on stage rolling, jumping, catching, throwing, being thrown all at once was just mind-boggling to witness.
So much was going on, so fast and so unbelievable that I know I'll be rolling these images around in my head for weeks. If you're fascinated by the ability of the well-trained human body, by the beauty of dance, or if you get revved up by high energy ensemble pieces, then Backbone is a must-see. I found it thought provoking, mysterious, fun, silly, beautiful, and an astounding display of talent.
Backbone by Gravity and Other Myths, hosted by the Cultch, is playing at the Vancouver Playhouse until 4 November 2018. Tickets at https://thecultch.com/events/backbone/
~ reviewed by Danielle Benzon
FARNDALE AVENUE HOUSING ESTATE TOWNSWOMEN'S GUILD DRAMATIC SOCIETY PRODUCTION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL - THEATRE WEST VAN
Farndale Avenue… “Christmas Carol” at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver was directed by Angie McLeod. The conceit of this play within a play is upheld comprehensively with even the publicity materials in the lobby displaying the "in world" casting, so as soon as you enter the theatre you are already in the play!
We have to commend the company for taking on such a difficult task. As the old saying goes, Dying is easy, Comedy is hard! They could have made a dreadful hash of it. The stumbling, bumbling of the Farndale Dramatic Society could lead one to think that they could waltz through without precision. They would be wrong! Comedy requires precise timing while seeming effortless.
The cast has a range of experience, from neophytes to old hands with resumes as long as your arm. It’s nice to see young talent getting an opportunity to perform alongside well-seasoned performers. It truly is an ensemble piece, with each of the actors balancing the dynamic so that no one character steals the show.
We were surprised that the show didn’t have better attendance. For $22 a seat, this show is a steal! We would recommend it as a must see in this Christmas theatre season.
Farndale Avenue... "Christmas Carol" is playing at the Kay Meek Centre until 10 November 2018.
Tickets at: kaymeek.com/events/farndale-9
Personal aside from Ian regarding the location:
Linda and I use an evening out at the theatre to have a nice meal as well as a fun time at the theatre. An hour’s drive from Langley (where we live) to West Van wasn’t daunting. I am sure many people who live in Vancouver wouldn’t think of making the trip. For us it was worth it.
Surprisingly, we had a bit of a hunt for a restaurant in that part of West Van. When we did find one, we were seated without a reservation only to be told our seat was booked for a party due a half hour later. We were asked to leave the Amici Restaurant. I was so shocked, I missed the opportunity to use the line, “I will have you know I’ve been thrown out of better places than this!”
~ reviewed by Ian and Linda Harrison
Jack Popplewell's Busybody directed by Rebecca Walters at the Metro Theatre is a drama that is filled less with suspense and more with a lot of comedy. The story starts with an investigation of a dead body found in an office that disappears by itself. And then it take turns in laughter and suspense as different events unfold.
The main highlight is Mrs Piper played by Alison Schamberger who did an amazing job. At the end of the show when she arrived to thank the audience, I observed a standing ovation by a few in the crowd. Though all the characters played an important role in supporting Mrs Piper's witty humour, I believe DS Baxter played by David Wallace was the best supporting actor to make her comedy a success. Schamberger was on the stage all the time, except for a few scenes. Being an office cleaner and in the habit of sticking her nose in everyone’s business, she kept poking everyone till the end of the show. Whenever Mrs Piper would frustrate Baxter, his reaction would echo laughter in the theatre. I liked his face going red when he shouted at her in frustration. Being a police officer, Baxter expected some kind of respect, but being old friends, Mrs Piper interfered in all his investigations. Surprisingly, by the end of the show she did indeed play a key role in solving the crime mystery.
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