Little Willy is a big hit

publicity photo for Little Willy

Who wouldn’t love Schnitzel
(pictured here with their creator, Ronnie Burkett)?

I had almost forgotten what helpless laughter feels like. It’s good for the soul.

In Little Willy, marionette master Ronnie Burkett is working a new premise, using many of the familiar faces from his “repertory company” of puppets and even doing one of his most … shall we say “time honoured” bits of schtick.

At first, I wasn’t sure how well it was going to work. The premise of Little Willy is that the Daisy Theatre, a traveling group of marionettes, has been booked into a venue that has mistakenly advertised them as a Shakespearean troupe, so they decide to improvise Romeo and Juliet.

The show starts off with Dolly Wiggler doing her familiar striptease. In terms of technique, it’s undeniably virtuosic, but I’ve seen it a bunch of times. And then Burkett trots out a series of beautifully crafted marionette characters — who don’t do much. The major general. The major general in drag. A librarian who’s an unfortunately stereotypical old maid.

The best jokes in this section are metatheatrical. Burkett’s only got two hands so, when he’s dealing with three puppet characters, one of them has to just hang there. This leads to some great gags about diva Esmee Masengill’s extraordinary technique, the discipline of her stillness.

And then Little Willy suddenly gains depth. Schnitzel arrives. Schnitzel is a little fairy with twisty ears and a flower growing out of their bald head. Schnitzel makes the pitch that they should be allowed to perform the balcony scene all by themself: they are, after all, gender fluid. The pitch itself is moving and, when Schnitzel launched into “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Schnitzel/Burkett delivered the speech with such innocence and feeling it was like I’d never heard it before. By the time Schnitzel got to “Romeo, doff thy name,/And for that name, which is no part of thee,/Take all myself”, I was in tears.

[Read more…]

Brothel #9: exquisite physical production, stellar performances

Touchstone Theatre is presenting Anusree Roy's Brothel #9.

Adele Noronha and Laara Sadiq are extraordinary in Brothel #9.

It’s immersive. There are so many compelling textures in Touchstone Theatre’s production of Brothel #9 that, watching it, you feel like you’re somewhere else.

In Toronto playwright Anusree Roy’s script, a young woman named Rekha arrives in a rundown building in Kolkata, thinking that she is about to start work in a light bulb factory. But she soon finds out that her brother-in-law has sold her into prostitution. Jamuna, an older sex worker, informs Rekha that escape is impossible: Birbal, their pimp, has excellent contacts; he will track her down wherever she goes and his revenge will be violent. When a policeman named Salaudin arrives, Rekha thinks that he might help her, but Salaudin takes Rekha into a back room and rapes her. Apparently unmoved by Rekha’s cries, Jamuna makes fish curry in the main room and sings to herself. [Read more…]

Hot tickets going fast. BUY NOW for A Simple Space.

A Simple Space. The Cultch. Gravity & Other Myths

Yes! I mean, really, just yes. A Simple Space is so much fun.

As I write this, there are just a few seats left for the remaining performances of A Simple Space, the fantastic acrobatic show from Australia. A Simple Space closes this weekend. The last shows are on October 24. So go to the Cultch’s website right now and SNAP UP THOSE DAMN TICKETS.

A Simple Space is playing one of the Cultch’s venues, the York Theatre, which is on the Hastings End of Commercial Drive. You might remember it as the old Raj cinema.

A Simple Space is insanely skilled, innocently erotic, and, above all, physically joyful.

If you’ve got kids in your life, take them, too. They will dig it.

Foreign Radical and my Portland three-way

Foreign Radical, Theatre Conspiracy, Vancouver Theatre

Milton Lim is the hyperkinetic host in Theatre Conspiracy’s smart, engaging Foreign Radical

When I attended Theatre Conspiracy’s Foreign Radical, my fellow audience members voted—virtually unanimously—to select me as the most suspicious person there. Maybe that was because I’m big and 30 years older than the rest of them, so I stood out, or maybe it was because I was writing in my notebook. [Read more…]


Obaaberima, the Cultch

Tawiah M’carthy never gets this dolled up in Obaaberima, but it’s a pretty picture.

I’m going to keep it short and sweet this week, folks: I’ve got two shows to recommend.

At the Cultch, you have two more nights to catch Tawiah M’carthy’s Obaaberima, which is about a queer Ghanian-Canadian guy embracing the supposedly unacceptable aspects of himself.

And you’ve got until April 19 to dip into the bubbly waters of Christopher Durang’s Tony Award-winning Chekhovian mashup, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Happy Easter!

It’s spring and the fresh talent is blooming

Katey Hoffman, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Arts Club Theatre

In Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Katey Hoffman is part of a bumper crop of fresh spring talent.

I’ve got three shows to recommend this week and they all feature strong performances from young artists.

In Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Christopher Durang’s crazy Chekhovian mashup, which runs at the Arts Club’s Stanley Theatre until April 19, Katey Hoffman gives a hilarious performance as a wannabe actor named Nina. This show also contains terrific work from Susinn McFarlen and Jay Brazeau.  [Read more…]

BEST holiday shows—for grown-ups and for families

Cinderella: An East Van Panto, Avenue Q

Cinderella: An East Van Panto is in the running for this year’s Christmas Pudding Award for best family entertainment

Okay. Time for the First Annual Christmas Pudding Awards.

There are two categories: Best Holiday Show for Families, and Outstanding Holiday Entertainment for Crusty Old Adults.

Let’s do the Family category first; kids have short attention spans.

The Family nominees are: the Arts Club’s Mary Poppins, Crazy for You at the Gateway, and Cinderella: An East Van Panto at the York. (I tried to see Carousel Theatre’s James and the Giant Peach, but they wouldn’t give me a comp. I’m telling Santa.)

Artistically, all of these shows are worth seeing. [Read more…]

Top three holiday shows—so far

Crazy For You, Gateway Theatre

Carmen Alatorre’s crazy-good costumes contribute to the giddy good time that is Crazy For You

I’m going to start to sound like a  rerun of Sesame Street, but Avenue Q is still my favourite show in town. Both the material and production are first-rate: irreverent and original. Things get a little spicy—there’s Muppet sex—and that’s great for adults, but Avenue Q is clearly not the best choice for family entertainment.

Kids would definitely prefer Cinderella: An East Van Panto over at the York. It’s a teensy bit bawdy, but in a way that will fly right over kids’ heads. Little ones will love booing the villains, and all of the sane adults will love booing the Christy Clark-like character who’s one of the baddies.  [Read more…]

Mies Julie is still the best show in town

Mies Julie, the Cultch, Vancouver theatre

Bongile Mantsai and Hilda Cronje duke it out in Mies Julie

Mies Julie is the show to see this weekend.

In some ways, the evening bears the burden of Strindberg’s original. At the beginning, you want to scream, “Let’s make this an early night! Just don’t fuck the crazy lady!” But that happens anyway, of course and, in many ways, Yaël Farber’s new version of the story is a huge improvement over what Strindberg had in mind. [Read more…]

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