Beneath Springhill: excellent performance, dull material

publicity photo for Beneath Springhill, Arts Club Theatre

Jeremiah Sparks is terrific in Beneath Springhill,
but the material doesn’t support him.(Photo by Moonrider Productions)

When does a pile have no depth? When it’s a pile of clichés.

I can understand why programming Beneath Springhill: The Maurice Ruddick Story might have looked like a good idea. This solo musical is based on the real-life experience of Maurice Ruddick, a Black Canadian miner who was trapped underground for nine days in a mining disaster in Springhill, Nova Scotia in 1958. Apparently, his singing helped to keep a small group of fellow survivors alive.

With Covid and climate change, the world is going to hell, so I can understand why the Arts Club’s artistic director Ashlie Corcoran would be attracted to a story of endurance and triumph. And, given the uncertainties of the pandemic and the financial hit that theatres have taken, it makes sense to program a one-person show.

But there are no ideas in Beneath Springhill and there’s virtually no dramatic tension. [Read more…]

yellow objects: an adventure

Poster for Derek Chan's yellow objects

There’s a lot going on here — and a good deal of it is engaging.

Playwright Derek Chan’s yellow objects is about Hong Kong’s democracy movement, which was crushed in 2020 — although its spirit lives on. Artistically, yellow objects is adventuresome. Ten audience members at a time move through an experience that’s staged on the Firehall Arts Centre’s playing area and in its outdoor courtyard.

The event’s loose narrative straddles two timelines: 2019, when demonstrators protesting against the Communist Party of China’s antidemocratic impositions on Hong Kong are being beaten, rounded up, tortured, and sometimes disappeared; and a period about 50 years after that in which a young Canadian woman named Sandra Wong arrives in Hong Kong to find a resting place for her grandmother’s ashes. [Read more…]

Three Little Pieces — with big hearts

Vagrant Players, Three Little Pieces

David Lennon and Stephanie George try for love at first click in the age of COVID.

Who wants to be seduced? I’m not talking about hard-wired seduction, the kind that’s all about your junk. I’m talking about the kind that opens your heart to irrational possibilities — like love — the kind that sets you floating in the universe and leaves you feeling a little drunk around the edges. [Read more…]

Tom Kerr, “a giant of a man”

Obituary of director Tom Kerr

Tom Kerr was a major force in Canadian theatre and has left an enormous legacy.

Hi everybody,

Glen Cairns, the longtime partner of theatre director and teacher Tom Kerr, wrote the tribute I’m sharing here.

Stay well,
Colin [Read more…]

House and Home: a recommended short-term rental

The Firehall Arts Centre is presenting Jenn Griffin's House and Home.

Jillian Fargey and Andrew Wheeler both rock in House and Home (Photo by Reznek Creative)

It’s kind of a shapeless bag of jewels, but it’s still a bag of jewels. [Read more…]

The Sea floated my boat — intermittently

The Slamming Door Collective is presenting Edward Bond's The Sea at the Jericho Arts Centre.

Slamming Door delivers a stylish production of Edward Bond’s eccentric script. (Photo of Cheyenne Mabberley and Genevieve Fleming by Erin Aberle-Palm)

Like a kid who has had the wrong kind of home schooling, Edward Bond’s The Sea is wildly creative—and undisciplined. It takes you to a refreshingly original imaginative world but then insists that you linger too long in some of the duller corners. [Read more…]

Mrs. Krishnan’s Party: accept this invitation


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…]

The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe—and some very good acting

Pacific Theatre is presenting Ron Reed's adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at Pacific Theatre.

John Both and Rebecca DeBoer in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lighting by John Webber. (Photo by Ron Reed)

When you watch an actor transform from one character to another, it’s like watching an excellent magic trick. It’s alchemical: they were one thing and now they’re another. And there are many such transformations in Pacific Theatre’s skilled, innocent production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. [Read more…]

A CRITIC’S DOZEN: 11 must-see fall shows

The theatre season we’re in promises to be thrilling.

As you’ll see, six of my 11 top picks will be playing at Cultch venues. So, if I were looking for season’s tickets, that’s where I’d buy.

Here we go!


Les Belles-Soeurs

Tabernac! The cast! This Ruby Slippers/Gateway co-pro features an avalanche of talent that includes Patti Allan, Eileen Barrett, Lucia Frangione, Pippa Mackie, Melissa Oei, France Perras, Kerry Sandomirsky, and Beatrice Zeilinger—and that’s only about half of them! Michel Tremblay’s 50-year-old classic introduces us to a group of women in 1960s Montreal who get together to stick savings-stamps into books. But that premise is just the fuse in this incendiary comedy about class, religion, and gender.

September 28 to October 6. Co-produced by Ruby Slippers Theatre and the Gateway theatre. At the Gateway. Tickets.


Incognito Mode: A Play About Porn

Marcus Youssef knows how to collaborate. Peter Panties and King Arthur’s Nights, which he created with Niall McNeil, and Winners and Losers, which he wrote with James Long, are among the best shows I’ve seen. The guy won the Siminovitch Prize for playwriting for God’s sake. That’s huge—like $100,000 huge. And this time out, he’s collaborating with students at Studio 58 about what it’s like to be the first generation to have grown up with constant and easy access to porn. What could be more intriguing?

September 29 to October 14. Produced by Studio 58 and Neworld Theatre. At Studio 58. Tickets. [Read more…]


> Sarvin Ismaeili *

Small Town Boys helped me to understand men’s vulnerability.

Performer/writer Sean Casey Leclaire introduces us to a group of boys who start hanging out together in suburban Montreal in 1970. Then the narrator follows his pals Bruno and Triple D out west. It’s a love story of sorts. But only one boy survives.

When Leclaire says, “No man is born violent”. I couldn’t agree with him more. And, in Small Town Boys, Leclaire looks for the roots of violence in the boys’ histories, their parenting, and their society.

That said, there are problems with Leclaire’s acting performance. When he walks onstage, he brings no energy, so it’s hard for him to drive his scenes. There are unnecessary pauses and the show feels under-rehearsed.

Still, Small Town Boys shifted my negative judgments of violent men—and that’s something.

Remaining Performances at the Waterfront Theatre on September 13 (6:45 p.m.), 15 (6:15 p.m.), and 16 (3:15 p.m.)



* This is a guest review.

Sarvin Esmaeili currently studies at Studio 58. She is a passionate 19-year-old theatre artist who cares a lot about diversity, inclusion and creating her own theatre and music. Sarvin is fluent in three languages: Farsi, English, and French. She loves reading, travelling, writing and going to the theatre. She is a co-playwright/performer of One of a Kind at the 2018 Vancouver International Children’s Festival and Doors of Choice and Identity at Vancouver Youth Theatre. She has done community theatre at Evergreen Cultural Center, Place des Arts and Pinetree Secondary’s Treehouse Theatre.


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