Fairview: disorienting — and reorienting

(Photo of Yasmin D’Oshun by Mark Halliday)

What can I tell you about Fairview? Since Jackie Sibblies Drury’s script is about the distorting power of the white gaze and the nightmarish inescapability of white opinion —  and since I’m a white guy — I’m going to opt for not telling you much.

The play’s central characters are all members of the Frasier family. They’re Black. When we meet them, they’re preparing for Grandma Frasier’s birthday dinner and they seem to be in a kind of sitcom reality — harried mom, gormless dad, plucky teenage daughter, smart-talking aunt — but there are glitches in the matrix: the stereo acts up.

And, when culinary disaster strikes, Drury starts rolling out a series of strategies, modes of storytelling that get increasingly surreal, complex, and challenging. These layers are often funny and always immersive. Theatre bends reality and Drury finds astonishingly original ways to do the bending. Theatre is also personal. Race is personal. And Drury takes full advantage of this viscerality, too.

In my experience, Fairview is almost uniquely disorienting — and reorienting. And I’m moved by its generosity.

That’s pretty much it from me. Much of the power of Drury’s storytelling is generated by its surprises; I encourage you to discover them for yourselves. This production is sure to be one of the shows of the season, if not the show of the season.

It’s well performed and beautifully designed. Go see it.

FAIRVIEW By Jackie Sibblies Drury. Co-directed by Kwaku Okyere and Mindy Parfitt. On Friday, September 29. A Search Party production in partnership with b current Performing Arts in The Cultch’s Historic Theatre until October 8. 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. Christopher Gauthier says:

    I enjoyed the show, enjoyed its challenges, mostly enjoyed being challenged.
    However, I have a bunch of small thoughts.
    (I’m trying to avoid massive spoilers.)

    If they are a TV family, then the TV acting needs to be strong and consistent (until it’s required not to be TV acting anymore), this production suffers from soft direction in that respect. The actors are not all equally good at this, they needed a stronger hand.

    The Middle section(s) when some voices are heard over action was the most effective part for me. Really fascinating how the section developed and grew from what could have been basic commentary to something much more charged and intriguing.

    Okay, I get the “song intros” to some of the later arrivals to the dinner party, but please, If we get a full song entrance the first time, you can trust we get the joke, and you can start to abbreviate, don’t know if this is script or direction but funny becomes unfunny quickly if it goes on too long. It did. Several times. You’re a critic Colin, you can criticize even as a white person.

    This one is tough without spoilers, but let’s just say what the playwright was asking in the last section, the audience I saw it with really, REALLY didn’t want to give. This is partly because focus shifts so suddenly some of us wanted to be completely sure what was actually being asked, once someone accepted (this time it was me) others followed, but by no means all.

    It’s an interesting ask. I don’t know what it’s like for a person of colour but for a white person I felt it was maybe more effective as an “Aha moment.” both at the time and later to continue to think on, not so much as an actual theatrical “device”, however if it’s effective for POC audiences to experience, then great.
    The concluding section is too repetitive though, I got it, so did the audience, move on-don’t play down, aim up.

    “Colourful people” suggests the existence of “Colourless people”, not sure if I’m onboard with that, but you can’t argue with an actor… I might with the playwright.

    Finally, as a designer I really appreciated both the salute to TV living rooms/The Brady Bunch, and to frankly my original childhood house’s living room and Danish modern furniture, so the one non-Danish modern piece, the sideboard, drove me mad (but likely only me.)

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