Little Volcano: plate tectonics

Veda Hille, Little Volcano, The Cultch

The power of counterpoint: Veda Hille in Little Volcano (Photo by Emily Cooper)

All alone in my living room, I applauded.

These are lonely times and getting to watch the livestream of Veda Hille’s Little Volcano for 90 minutes is like having the most fascinating person over for the most intimate of conversations.

Hille is a singer/songwriter and the stories she tells here — as she speaks and as she plays the piano and sings — are about love, death, and the gift of presence: love for her husband, whom she calls her “pony” and love for her son, who says he loves her back “like a lion stuck to a bear stuck to a tiger stuck to a unicorn”.

Hille addresses tragedy, including the loss of her infant child, without a mote of sentimentality.

And the enveloping sum is about presence, about having a picnic lunch with her mom in Haida Gwaii and listening to frogs while on a musicians’ retreat in Scotland.

Cleverly, Hille sets up the intertwining nature of her storytelling by referring to the way Bach weaves his musical themes. She says his music, “seems to hold the complexity of the world in a way that I can understand.” There’s a concrete precision to this that unifies observation and grace: Hille says the forms in Bach’s music are “like something you’d see under a microscope.”

Along with co-writers and directors Maiko Bae Yamamoto and James Long, Hille makes the evening engagingly theatrical. She plays records and syncs her piano playing to them. When the discs are spinning, objects, including a little trophy, sometimes rotate at the centre. Sophie Tang’s lighting is perfectly conversational — by which I mean, like the material, it’s full of feeling but never overstated. Even Hille’s dress, designed by Leah Weinstein, deconstructs to become part of an onstage volcano.

At home, I was having tech trouble. The speakers on my laptop are crapping out and, when I tried to switch to my phone, the feed stalled. So, by the end, I was huddled around my MacBook, almost hugging it.

That felt appropriate. Although I barely know her, Hille feels like a friend. And this production reminded me that The Cultch, where Hille is being videoed — and where you can watch her live if you choose — is a significant cultural home.

LITTLE VOLCANO Created by Veda Hille, Maiko Bae Yamamoto, and James Long. Songs by Veda Hille. Directed by Maiko Bae Yamamoto and James Long. Produced by Veda Hille and Eponymous. Viewed live online from The Cultch (in preview) on Thursday, October 22. Runs until October 25. 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.

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