Transform Cabaret Festival Opening Night Bash: Revolutionary. Joy.

#UrbanInk, #TheCultch, #TransformCabaretFestival

Drag artist Le Gateau Chocolat sent a performance from London Thursday night.

Last night’s Opening Night Bash at the Transform Cabaret Festival was … transformative for me. Moreso than last year’s.

I don’t think that’s because this year’s edition was artistically “better”, whatever that means; I think it’s because the overwhelming awfulness of our global crises allowed me to appreciate more fully the power of celebration as resistance.

Presented by Urban Ink and The Cultch, the Transform Cabaret Festival is livestreaming pre-recorded performances until October 3. The opening night bashes are, in part, tasters that allow viewers to choose which acts they want to see full shows from later in the week, but they also stand on their own as variety nights. On October 1, another Opening Night Bash will launch the second half of the festival.

Here’s what I loved last night.

Kimmortal. The evening kicked into high gear for me with non-binary Filipinx artist Kimmortal’s performance of their poem “Dear Lover”. It’s about the cultural interfaces that immigrants and queer folk have to negotiate to survive.

“Years ago I had a stutter with the English language/that I knew would stop me from getting to you,” they say. So they learned to dismantle and repurpose that language: “I took their shit/grinded it down/and mixed its ingredients/For you my lover.”

In performance, these ideas are made material through the use of paper: Kimmortal shreds pages, gathers up the pieces, and transforms them into paper dolls.

I also had a particularly good time with Lynx Chase, who is a jaw-droppingly strong and flexible pole dancer, and stand-up comics Candy Palmater and Elvira Kurt, who beamed in from Toronto. Kurt expressed her appreciation for the “hot step-dad vibe” that Justin Trudeau exuded in the early days of the pandemic.

And there’s another star duo: video director Cameron Anderson and lighting designer Lukas McCormick, who turned the sequences shot in The Cultch into full-on, dizzying music videos. The excellence of their work played a huge role in maintaining the evening’s momentum.

Speaking of momentum, charming though they are, it seems that the hosts, who recorded their bits in Australia, had not being shown videos of the previous acts before they introduced new numbers, so they weren’t reacting spontaneously, which undercut the sense of accumulating excitement. I don’t know if it’s possible, but it would be great if that could be addressed for the next Bash.

There were also individual acts that didn’t work that well for me but, because of the mode of delivery, I didn’t care — and that was a liberation. The Bash was being streamed onto my living-room TV so, if I got a little bored, I could check Facebook and get back to the show later. I’m not saying this to put anybody down — we all have different tastes. I’m noting it because livestreaming allowed me to relax the standards that I feel obliged to apply in the theatre — and that allowed me to more fully appreciate the furious good intentions and personal courage of everybody involved.

Donald Trump is barricading himself in the White House. Breonna Taylor’s murderers are getting away with it. And my many queer friends on the US West Coast are among the those in danger from fires that are the direct result of climate change.

But here were a bunch of queer folks and people of colour partying out a resounding “Fuck you!” and sometimes, in the evening’s celebratory eroticism, a joyous, though implicit “Fuck me!”

‘There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Thanks Leonard Cohen and thanks Opening Night Bash.

TRANSFORM CABARET FESTIVAL OPENING NIGHT BASH Festival curated by Heather Redfern and Cory Payette. Core Bash artists and creators: Quanah Style, Sierra Tasi Baker, Kimmortal, Lynx Chase, Chelsea Rose, and JB the First Lady. Presented by Urban Ink and The Cultch. Livestreamed on Thursday, September 24. The Transform Cabaret Festival runs until October 3. A second Opening Night Bash will livestream on October 1. Festival Tickets.


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About Colin Thomas

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.


  1. I really liked your review not because I watched the Bash (I am trying to see VIFF films), but because it is so upbeat. Thank you Colin for this ray of sunshine – I needed it!

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