Kuroko: All dressed up

Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre is presenting Tetsuro Shigematsu's Kuroko at The Cultch.

The weapons are virtual. Is the relationship real? (Photo of Kanon Hewitt and Lou Ticzon by Chris Randle)

Sure, Kim Kardashian wears great clothes, but does she have a soul? There’s a similar problem — although it’s not nearly as severe or creepy — with Kuroko: the production is stunning but, narratively and emotionally, Tetsuro Shigematsu’s script is perfunctory. [Read more…]

Certified: You’d be crazy not to see it

Touchstone Theatre is presenting Jan Derbyshire's Certified at the Vancity Culture Lab.

Jan Derbyshire: let her tell you a story, let her sing you a song. (Photo by Ben Laird)

Jan Derbyshire’s Certified is pretty much perfect. And how often do I get to say that?

Certified is about Derbyshire’s journey with mental illness and mental health, but it’s not one of those stories that collapses into the horrors of madness. Derbyshire allows herself to be vulnerable, but she’s also levitatingly funny. And she changed the way I see the world. [Read more…]

Take d Milk, Nah?: Yeah, take d milk

Take d Milk, Nah? is playing at The Cultch.

According to Jivesh Parasram, Hindu cows don’t say moo.
He’s in a position to know.

I’ve been so bored in the theatre so often lately that I’ve been starting to wonder if I’m dead inside. That’s why I’m feeling so high right now:  Take d Milk, Nah? kept me consistently stimulated and engaged. [Read more…]

Nassim is a retread

Nassim Soleimanpour's new show Nassim is playing The Cultch in Vancouver.

In Nassim, Nassim Soleimanpour reuses his mystery-script device. (Photo of the playwright by Studio Doug)

Nassim feels like an endless set-up for an experience that barely arrives. [Read more…]

New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken—homemade okayness

The Cultch is presenting New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken at the York.

The sing! They peel potatoes! (Photo by Charles Frédérick Ouellet)

New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken is inventive but not dazzling, an intermittently engaging form of theatrical folk art.

In the show, a cast of six prepares a meal of chicken and mashed potatoes as well as appetizers—all while performing popular American songs from the 30s. The music involves a lot of yodeling and harmonies from the two female performers, who are billed as the New Cackle Sisters. And the instrumentation includes everything from kazoos to a tuba and percussion achieved by slapping raw poultry.

The meal prep is just as eccentric. When the New Cackle Sisters peel the potatoes, for instance, one of them skewers a potato with a hand-held drill, then turns it on, rotating the potato at speed while the other runs a peeler along it as if she were working a lathe. Potato skin and chunks of potato go flying. [Read more…]

Mrs. Krishnan’s Party: accept this invitation

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I feel revived. So many things in the world these days are so depressing and alienating—the endless Trump news, for instance. Grounded, personal, and celebratory, Mrs. Krishnan’s Party is the perfect antidote for all of that. I don’t know when I’ve left the theatre feeling so refreshed and renewed. [Read more…]

Dakh Daughters: lots of texture—and bafflement

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Don’t make the same mistake I did and go toDakh Daughtersexpecting an evening of theatre; it’s a concert by a Ukrainian band.

There are theatrical elements to be sure. Dakh Daughters is an all-women ensemble and their costumes (designed by director Vlad Troitskyi) are a trip; the musicians start off wearing green smock dresses that make them look like factory workers, but they’re also wearing whiteface make-up and they have blood-red flowers in their hair. The combination is kind of Soviet-brutalism-meets-Frida-Kahlo. [Read more…]

Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre presents A Christmas Carol—is a long title for an excellent show

Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre presents A Christmas Carol is playing at The Cultch

The character Schnitzel embodies the essential innocence of this wacky undertaking.

This is the sixth year running that Ronnie Burkett has done a Christmas show at The Cultch. Sometimes they’ve been blindingly good and sometimes they’ve been a little ragged around the edges—a bit repetitive or sloppy—but one thing never changes: in terms of sheer skill and charisma, Burkett is one of the most extraordinary performers you’ll ever see.

This year’s show, Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre presents A Christmas Carol, was also last year’s show and, once again, Burkett was flying by the seat of his under-rehearsed pants on opening night—but I didn’t care. He was so upfront and so giddy about getting lost in the sequence sometimes—he was having such a good time and everything was so fresh and electric—that I just sat back and let the whole thing roll over me in waves of pleasure. [Read more…]

Three Winters: my chilly response

The Cultch is presenting Three Winters in its Historic Theatre

As a director, Amiel Gladstone creates arresting stage pictures in Three Winters (Photo of Julie Siedlanowska by Emily Cooper)

There seem to be at least a couple of good stories in the source material for Three Winters, but writer and director Amiel Gladstone hasn’t figured out how to tell them.

Gladstone based Three Winters on his grandfather’s memories of being a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III, the camp where the breakout happened that was dramatized in the 1963 movie The Great Escape. Apparently, those prisoners also performed plays using scripts supplied by the Red Cross.

In Three Winters, the narrative lines about the escape and the performances overlap and compete for space, but neither is developed in a satisfying way. [Read more…]

SmallWaR: sustained passages of theatrical brilliance

Check out the texture of this piece. (In Vancouver, SmallWaR is being performed in English).

There are passages in SmallWaR that are as exquisite as anything I’ve seen. The opening is a stunner.

Valentijn Dhaenens, the Belgian artist who created SmallWaR, also performs it by himself—although he is fragmented. When we first see him fully lit, he is dressed as a female military nurse circa WWI. She pushes a hospital bed onstage and, upright on that bed, there’s a video screen on which we see Dhaenens again—as a man this time, a soldier. The way the video is framed, his torso is truncated. In voiceover, the soldier wonders why he can’t see or hear and why his legs are so light.

Then a phone rings and the soldier wonders why nobody is answering it. A telephone appears on a screen that takes up the entire stage. A spirit rises from the soldier’s image, then transfers full-bodied to the screen, walks across the stage, and answers the ringing phone. The soldier talks to his sweetheart. She tells him she doesn’t want him go to war, but he says he must fight for democracy. [Read more…]

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