Author Archive for Colin Thomas, Vancouver Editor

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

Honour: this story of a Mumbai courtesan is well-intentioned but narratively weak

Dipti Mehta's Honour is at the Culture Lab as part of Diwali in BC.

In Honour, the textures of the characterizations—and fabrics—are stunning. (Photo by Kyle Rosenberg)

I have no doubt that writer and performer Dipti Mehta’s heart is in the right place, but she’s not a great storyteller.

In her solo show, Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan, Mehta introduces us to Rani, whose mother, Chameli, is a sex worker in Mumbai’s “Fuck Lane”. Rani has just turned 16 and Chameli has decided that it’s time to sell her daughter’s virginity, her “honour”. Chameli loves Rani, but she sees her decision as pragmatic: Chameli and Rani are so outcast, she reasons persuasively, that there is no way for either of them to enter mainstream society. [Read more…]

The acting in Happy Place is stronger than the script

Pamela Mala Sinha's script for Happy Place is receiving an excellent production at the Firehall Arts Centre.

In Happy Place, the psychiatric patients are discouraged from asking one another questions. Instead, they play imaginative games with rocks. (Photo by Tim Matheson)

The storytelling in Happy Place could be more focused and compelling, but some of the play’s content pierces to the heart of the current cultural moment and the cast is stellar.

In Happy Place, playwright Pamela Mala Sinha takes us to an upscale inpatient treatment centre for women who have attempted suicide. Samira has just arrived. She knows that she was raped and tortured five years earlier, but she can’t remember the event in enough detail to identify and accuse her attacker. “I want to cut it out of my head. What I can’t remember,” she says. [Read more…]

Go ahead: satisfy your Kuriosity

In Kurios, Rola Bola is one of the best acts.

My man James Eulises Gonzalez balances like this, way up in the air, on a moving swing. Shut up.

It’s worth it. Like a great pair of shoes or an indulgent vacation, a great night out is worth a splurge. And Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities is a great night out.

The world of this Cirque du Soleil production, which premiered in 2014, is steam-punk: it’s fascinated with mechanical invention and science, so, thanks to set designer Stéphane Roy, contortionists perform atop a giant mechanical hand and an acrobat makes his entrance in a fantastical flying machine. There’s a sly undertow to this Victoriana as well, a rebellion from the organic world. Those female contortionists, and, later, a group of trampolining men are exotic biological specimens: their costumes make them look like brilliantly coloured geckos, but they are gilled; after flying through the air, the men flirtatiously flutter the scaly ruffs around their heads and hips. When a scientist tries to capture the contortionists in a bell jar, they defy him. [Read more…]

VANCOUVER GREENROOM 12: Hearing voices

Latinx playwrights have a friend in Jacob Padrón and the Sol Project.

Jacob Padrón is the artistic director of the seven-member collective, the Sol Project, which champions Latinx playwrights.

SOL TRAIN

The core goal of the Sol Project is to strengthen the presence of Latinx playwrights off-Broadway and in regional theatres in the US.

Although it only launched last May, the Sol Project has already been incredibly successful. The collective enterprise plans to develop and co-produce 12 works by Latinx playwrights with 12 Off-Broadway institutions. Nine companies, including The Public Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, and LAByrinth Theatre Company have already signed on. [Read more…]

VIVA: artistic adventure in Las Vegas

Aenigma Theatre and Bright Young Theatre are co-producing VIVA at the Havana.

In VIVA, Alice and Graeme are heading different directions, but their stories overlap in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of powerful writing in Scott Button’s new play VIVA. That’s the most important thing to know. There are also lapses of taste, which undermine the strengths.

In VIVA, Button overlaps two narratives. At the outset, Alice and Graeme, who don’t know one another, are on the same plane to Las Vegas. Button does an excellent job of controlling the revelation of information, so I won’t mess with that other than to say that the stories involve Graeme’s search for a lost family member and Alice’s attempt to save her terminally ill brother by illegal means. [Read more…]

Thanks for Giving: thanks for the ambition

Margo Kane is in Thanks for Giving at the Arts Club's Granville Island Stage.

This image of Margo Kane looks playful, but there’s a lot of darkness along with the laughs in Thanks for Giving.

It’s as if playwright Kevin Loring has tried to cram half a dozen Greek tragedies—plus a couple of episodes of The Honeymooners—into one evening. His new play, Thanks for Giving, is inspiringly ambitious, often funny, sometimes beautiful, and structurally scattershot.

Like a Greek tragedy, Thanks for Giving tells a story of family trauma, but this time, instead of the House of Atreus, it’s the Bear Clan. And it starts off with Pa, the settler grandfather, shooting a grizzly sow and her two cubs. When Pa’s wife Nan finds out about this over Thanksgiving dinner, she is furious: her grandmother taught her that the grizzly is a healer—and a relative. [Read more…]

VANCOUVER GREENROOM 11: We need to talk

Theatre is community

Colin Thomas writes about Vancouver theatre.

I’m getting into some new things that you should probably know about.

WE NEED TO TALK 

I love you, I really do. All of you who read Vancouver Greenroom are important to me. But…our relationship has to change. And I want us to grow together, not apart.

Starting in November, this blog feature, Vancouver Greenroom, will disappear, and I’ll start pouring all of its content—which is oriented towards theatre makers as well as theatregoers—into my newsletter.

You can subscribe to that newsletter right here. (Just keep saying yes: it’s what has made us so good together so far.)

Like us, the newsletter is free. It’s fun. And—I’m not going to say whether this is like us or not—but it only comes once a week. [Read more…]

VANCOUVER GREENROOM 10: Sore throat

Theatre is community. 

My throat is sore from cheering Vancouver theatre artists.

Veena Sood knows how to take a great picture. And she has just won a fresh award.

SORE THROAT

Geez, my throat hurts. The cheering for Vancouver theatre artists just doesn’t stop these days.

Marcus Youssef, who is nominated for the Simonivitch Prize, just won the Mayor’s Arts Award for theatre, and Conor Wylie got the nod as emerging theatre artist. Artistic director of Neworld Theatre, Youssef is also an actor and playwright, who wrote and performed Winners and Losers with Jamie Long. Actor and writer Wylie works with a number of cutting-edge companies including Hong Kong Exile. [Read more…]

Click on TJ Dawe and Itai Erdal’s Hyperlink

Elbow Theatre is presenting Hyperlink at The Firehall Arts Centre.

TJ Dawe (right) seems to be implying that Itai Erdal is getting a little self-indulgent in Hyperlink. (Photo by Diane Smithers)

Hyperlink is terrific, stylin’ entertainment. It’s about social media. And, in crucial ways, it’s the opposite of social media.

During the show, we’re all in the same space at the same time, for instance. Real human beings, live flesh: how refreshing! Nobody is anonymous. And nobody—as far as I can tell—is trying to farm our personal information. We’re all just playing together with the hilarious, alluring, sometimes dangerous toys of YouTube, Facebook, and Craigslist. [Read more…]

1 Hour Photo is underdeveloped

Empire of the Son was a success. 1 Hour Photo may be a success or a failure.

Tetsuro Shigematsu’s 1 Hour Photo needs more focus.

There are exquisite elements in 1 Hour Photo. There are also significant problems with the storytelling.

For almost its entire length, 1 Hour Photo doesn’t seem to know what it’s about. Writer Tetsuro Shigematsu, who performs the show with musician Steve Charles, tells the life story of Mas Yamamoto, who is the elderly father of a good friend. So far so good. But what’s the core of Shigematsu’s take on Yamamoto’s history? The playwright presents several major elements, including the incarceration of Yamamoto’s family during WWII, an unfulfilled romance, and the rocky development of Yamamoto’s career, which culminated in his owning a thriving photo-development business. [Read more…]