The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: children’s theatre can do better

Carousel Theatre for Young People is presenting The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at the Waterfront Theatre.

Sereana Malani as the White Witch. If only evil were always this stylin’.

During the holiday season, adults are eager to take the kids in their lives to the theatre. That lovely human impulse should be rewarded with first-rate art. Unfortunately, Carousel Theatre for Young People’s production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is only okay. [Read more…]

Onegin is superb

Onegin is playing at the Arts Club's Granville Island Stage

Give yourself the gift of smart, openhearted sensuality this season: see Onegin. (That’s Lauren Jackson on the left and Josh Epstein on the right. David Cooper took the photo)

I saw Onegin again last night and, not to put too fine a point on it, it was like falling back into the arms of a favourite lover. [Read more…]

Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre Presents A Christmas Carol – genius, with limitations

Little Dickens. Schnitzel. Ronnie Burkett

If it were legal to adopt marionettes, I would apply for guardianship of Schnitzel.

Puppeteer Ronnie Burkett is a genius. He just is. Another blunt truth: Little Dickens isn’t his best show—at least it isn’t yet.

As the full title makes clear, Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre Presents A Christmas Carol is yet another riff on Charles Dickens’s classic seasonal ghost story.

Burkett has been mounting evenings called The Daisy Theatre at The Cultch for four years now. The Daisy Theatre itself is kind of a rep company of marionettes: we see the same characters every winter. The idea behind this is that it allows audiences to spend more time with favourites and it lets Burkett put up an annual holiday entertainment without having to carve a whole new cast of characters every time.

In Little Dickens, the bitter old showgirl Esmé Massingill becomes Scrooge, the stout Prairie housewife, Edna Rural takes on the role of Christmas Present, and the irresistible fairy Schnitzel becomes Tiny Tim. [Read more…]

The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonious: Just how dark do you want it?

Rumble Theatre is presenting The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius at The Cultch.

Peter Anderson (Titus) should not be allowed to play with dolls. (Photo by Steven Drover)

At the beginning of The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius, I was so stimulated—so shocked, laughing so hard—that I was afraid I was going to start shouting things. Unplanned, random shit. You’ve got to love a show that makes you feel like you might lose your mind. [Read more…]

VANCOUVER GREENROOM 13: Operating theatre

Theatre is community. 

Operating theatre.

Medical students rehearse Into the Woods—so that they’ll be better doctors. (Photo by Nathan Bajar for The New York Times)

OPERATING THEATRE

Do you know what all of those losers who got into medical school want to do? Musical comedy.

The medical school at New York City’s Columbia University has its own theatre and it takes seriously the effect that rehearsing and performing has on trainee doctors. According to Dr. Lisa Mellman, the senior associate dean of student affairs at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, “It enhances empathy and understanding and emotional intelligence of our students, and it translates into enhanced understanding for patients from other backgrounds and cultures.”

The young medics bring their own vocabulary to the process, of course. Rehearsing a production of Into the Woods, the director said that she wanted to the two guys singing “Agony” to rip their shirts open. When the designer asked “How far?”, the director replied, “Just to the bottom of the xiphoid process.” [Read more…]

September 11: six fresh reviews from Deneh’Cho Thompson

Despite the byline above, which I can’t figure out how to remove, these reviews are by Deneh’Cho Thompson. – CT

Katharine Ferns is in Stitches is playing the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Katharine Ferns does stand-up right: with elegance, simplicity—and depth.

KATHARINE FERNS IS IN STITCHES

It feels like Ferns and I have been best friends for years—and we have never met.

Katharine Ferns is in Stiches, an autobiographical stand-up show, is one of the most open and honest stories I have ever heard told—on-stage or off. Ferns covers a pile of dark topics, from domestic abuse to pedophilia. But it’s not all dark: “There are also jokes about kittens and cocaine. Something for everyone!”

Early in the show Ferns tells us, “I wanted to be perfect for everyone.” Then she explores the messed-up stuff that can happen to us when we strive to achieve perfection. This is a story of resilience, survival, and that all-too-human struggle to love oneself.

I have trouble with stand-up as a form, but this is how it is done right. Katharine Ferns in Stitches is very personal and it’s elegant in its simplicity. And what a journey! Even with all the truly awful things that Ferns has experienced, she ends the show with a beautiful transformation: “I don’t want to be angry anymore. I want to forgive myself for not being perfect.” 

Remaining shows at Studio 16 on September 10 (7:05 p.m.), 13 (5:20 p.m.), 16 (8:20 p.m.), and 17 (3:50 p.m.) [Read more…]

Nomadic Tempest is very, very bad

Paul Kirby wrote and directed Nomadic Tempest for Caravan Stage.

Children appear—in video—in Nomadic Tempest, but their dialogue is awful and the video is alienating.

Somebody’s got to say it: Nomadic Tempest is pretentious hippie gibberish.

Caravan Theatre started in 1970 in the BC interior and split into two groups in 1985. One bunch, Caravan Farm Theatre, has been producing shows on its land outside Armstrong ever since. Since 1993, Caravan Stage, the company that’s producing Nomadic Tempest,  has been sailing the world on its boat, the Amara Zee, which is currently moored on the south side of False Creek. Audience members sit in chairs or on bleachers on the shore to watch the show, which mostly takes place on the vessel.

It’s amazing to me that a company that’s been producing theatre for so long has managed to come up with a product that is so boring. [Read more…]

What is HAPPENING with my website?

I crashed my website.

Sorry, folks. Sometimes I’m not the sharpest tack in the pack—but I do have the sharpest hat.

What’s happening with my website?

Well you might ask.

Last week, just as I was heading off on a brief vacation, I crashed my website. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it was entirely my fault.

Thanks to the wizardry of Giorgio Riccardi at Sea to Sky Web Solutions, my site has been restored. THANK-YOU, GIORGIO!

Today, I’ve been repopulating the site with a bunch of material that wasn’t backed up by my previous web host. And I forgot to turn off my Facebook and Twitter notifications. That’s why I’ve been overwhelming these feeds. SORRY!

Sometimes I feel like the opposite of a genius.

Redpatch tells a worthwhile story too earnestly

Hardline Productions has produced Redpatch

Raes Calver and Deneh’Cho Thompson play First Nations WWI soldiers in Redpatch

Redpatch doesn’t work—at least it doesn’t work for me. I’m a white guy and Redpatch deals with the experience of a Métis soldier during WWI, so some might feel inclined to dismiss my criticism. But the company invited me to review the show, so here goes.

Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver’s script introduces us to a young guy who goes by the name of Half-Blood. He is determined to enlist and fight for Canada in “the war to end all wars”. Half-Blood’s grandmother, She Goes Between, warns him not to sign up. “War doesn’t make men brave,” she says. “It doesn’t make men heroes.” But Half-Blood ignores her and he is soon on the battlefields of France. There, his skills as a tracker and hunter prove useful—and lethal. He turns into a killing machine, venturing into no man’s land under the cover of darkness and slaughtering scores of German soldiers.

Was Half-Blood’s grandmother right? Of course. Does war make Half-Blood a hero? Of course not. As it turns out, Half-Blood has to untangle a trauma involving his childhood best friend before he can release himself from his compulsion to slaughter. [Read more…]

A Christmas Carol reinvented—with delightful weirdness

Theatre Obscura is presenting A Christmas Carol at the Jericho Arts Centre.

Linden Banks stepped into Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol at the last minute—with ghoulish aplomb.

The pleasure is in the storytelling—and in everything from the words to the light that’s used to tell the tale.

In Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, playwright Tom Mula examines the motivation—and metaphysical placement—of Jacob Marley, who is a bit player, the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner, in Charles Dickens’s original telling of A Christmas Carol.

In the Dickens version, Marley instigates Scrooge’s redemption but, once that transformation is complete, he is left to drag his chains through lonely eternity. Mula gives Marley a break: if Marley can redeem Scrooge, the dog-sized chair-shaped Record Keeper tells him, he will be free “to pursue his greater joy.” [Read more…]