People often say to me, “You must get so sick of going to the theatre!” But I don’t. I love my job. Not to put too fine a point on it, but my job is fucking spectacular: I get to think and feel for a living.
As a way of saying thank-you to everybody who makes theatre in Vancouver—and to everybody who cares about theatre in Vancouver—here’s a list. It’s not an inventory of my favourite shows; it’s a selection of some of the performances and moments that embedded themselves most deeply in my psyche during 2014.
In no particular order, they are:
Emelia Gordon in Proud: When you’re watching the best actors, you can always tell that they’re having a good time—no matter what they’re doing. In Proud, Emmelia Gordon was having such a good time that she was in flight. And she was just as vivacious and present in the considerably more serious Fat Pig.
Corina Akeson in The Winter’s Tale: The pleasure principle we’ve been discussing? Corina Akeson’s gender-crossing turn as Leontes in The Winter’s Tale was so full of meaty, macho feeling—Akeson’s work was so enthusiastically committed; she was so into it—that watching her was like eating a steak. More directors should be casting this talented woman.
Peter Carlone having sex in Hunter Gatherers: One of the best comic performers in town, Carlone made me stamp my feet with glee in Hunter Gatherers: when his uptight character finally gave himself over to having wild, illicit sex, he paused, in the middle of ripping his clothes off, to fold his sweater.
Meg Roe’s exit in Saint Joan: When the soldiers dragged Roe’s Joan off to be burned, I flinched as if I was watching a child being beaten. It’s no small feat to provoke such a visceral response when staging G.B. Shaw’s wordy script, but Kim Collier’s direction was both smart and physical, and Roe is one of the most openhearted and skilled actors you’ll ever see.
Dean Paul Gibson in Saint Joan: Speaking of Saint Joan, Dean Paul Gibson’s turn as the Earl of Warwick was phenomenally thorough. Not a single Machiavellian cell was out of place.
Craig Erickson in Speed-the-Plow: Give me strength. I hope that I never forget the rhythmic ride that Erickson and Aaron Craven gave me in the opening scene of this Mitch and Murray production of David Mamet’s riff on Hollywood. And watching Erickson listen to Kayla Deorksen in a later scene, in which Deorksen had almost all of the lines, was a master class in acting.
The standing ovation for Jayson McDonald’s Magic Unicorn Island – Fringe performer Jayson McDonald has never failed to dazzle me, and his work in his solo show, Magic Unicorn Island—which is about kids protesting militarism and global warming—was no exception. But it was the standing ovation that the show received in Victoria, where I first saw it, that opened my eyes to the true value of the work. In Magic Unicorn Island, McDonald uses beauty and humour to give voice to sentiments that too often get mired in despair. That afternoon, in a weird little hall, a straggling audience of varying ages and backgrounds stood up and responded with deep, collective gratitude.
This was also a breakthrough year for a number of theatre artists.
Again, in no particular order:
Daniel Doheny – This recent Studio 58 grad took an enormous leap into full-blown professionalism with his performances in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest at Bard, and in Touchstone’s Late Company. Innocence and skill: what a beautiful combination.
Jay Clift – Clift knocked it out of the park in the dark Bug and the comic Hunter Gatherers. Clift has a big, beefy body—and he knows how to spin that masculinity into vulnerability, threat, babeliciousness, and absurdity: he is very good at playing the man game.
Meaghan Chenosky – Chenosky arrived in grand style, winning a Jessie (supporting actress, small theatre) for her soul-baring work in ITSAZOO’s Killer Joe. She was also the best reason to watch Solo Collective’s Small Parts. I’m sure she can play non-whackos, too.
Anton Lipovetsky – With his performances in Cymbeline and Equivocation at Bard, Lipovetsky moved from being a wunderkind to being a certified mainframe star. The guy is so confident—and so surprising—I’d watch him do anything.
Suzanne Ristic – Long established as an excellent actor, Ristic proved, with her play Poor at the Fringe, that she can also write. Creating work about homelessness has got to be one of the biggest artistic traps in the world, but Ristic neatly sidestepped sentimentality, exploitation, and finger wagging to deliver a witty, passionate work.
Loretta Seto – I’d never heard of playwright Loretta Seto before I saw her script, Dirty Old Woman, at the Fringe, but I’m sure that I’ll hear about her again. Seto is young, but she did an amazing job of getting inside the head—and sexual organs—of her play’s post-menopausal protagonist. The script is funny and moving, but it’s Seto’s ability to telepathically inhabit the experiences of others that makes her extraordinary.
And that’s it for my yearly wrap-up!
Thanks for all of these moments, performances, and breakthroughs. Thanks for the many wonderful accomplishments that I’m not celebrating here, but that I have been lucky enough to experience throughout the year. And thanks to all of the theatre artists and other theatre workers in town for just damn well doing it, for making it happen. You rock my world.