Archives for February 2017

Romeo + Juliet thrash around in this production and it eventually pays off

Cole Lewis directs Romeo and Juliet at Simon Fraser University.

Montserrat Videla and Matthew Winter prepare to get it on in SFU’s Romeo + Juliet

Watching Romeo + Juliet reminded me of having sex when I was 19. Like that sex, director Cole Lewis’s production is, above all, enthusiastic. It’s also a mess sometimes—and sometimes spectacular.

This wildness is appropriate in a way: Romeo and Juliet are out of their minds. When Romeo first lays eyes on Juliet at a party, he is mooning over another girl. But, based largely on the way Juliet looks, he falls for her like he’s diving off the cliffs in Acapulco. She’s thirteen; he, presumably, is a little older. Fueled by parental resistance, their infatuation quickly leads to marriage and a double suicide. [Read more…]

Playful, sensual, inviting: “am a”

In "am a", choreographer Amber Funk Barton and director Mindy Parfitt explore neuroplasticity and its potential effects on their lives and artistic practices.

Mindy Parfitt stretches into her beauty in “am a”. (Tristan Brand photo)

Going to the theatre can be many things, but it’s not often refreshing. am a is refreshing.

In their new, two-woman show, dance artist Amber Funk Barton and theatre artist Mindy Parfitt explore themselves and their professional practices through the lens of neuroplasticity.

The term neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change—to remain plastic—into adulthood. Scientists used to think that brain development only occurred in childhood and young adult life, but recent research has turned that idea on its head, so to speak.

The revelation that we can alter the mechanics of our perception is, of course, hopeful. “Think of something that you hate about yourself,” one of the performers instructs early in the evening. My response was easy. Immediate. Wouldn’t it be great to rewire all of that? [Read more…]

The Courier just booted Jo Ledingham

Jo Ledingham was the Vancouver Courier's theatre critic for almost 30 years.

The Vancouver Courier’s Jo Ledingham is the latest Canadian theatre critic to get booted out of print.

I was walking my dog yesterday morning when I got a call from Jo Ledingham. She was phoning to let me know that the Vancouver Courier newspaper had just told her that they no longer require her services as a theatre critic. Apparently, a new editor is cutting back. Although staffers may sometimes review in the future, Ledingham will not be replaced by another dedicated critic.

The ongoing loss of theatre critics across the country has serious implications. Without informed, experienced critics—Ledingham has been at the Courier for almost 30 years—the standard of discussion goes down, consumers and funding bodies look in vain for reliable opinions, and artists are denied the benefits of publicity and candor.

In a press release, Ledingham expressed her appreciation of the many entertainment editors she has worked with over the years—most recently, Michael Kissinger, who paid her the respect of calling her personally to deliver the news.

She will continue to review online at

If this development concerns you, I suggest writing letters to the editor. I think there’s a reasonable chance that the Courier will publish some of them. The mailing address is: 303 West 5th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V5Y 1J6. The email address is



The Arts Club’s Bill Millerd is stepping down

After 45 years as artistic managing director of the Arts Club Theatre, Bill Millerd is stepping down.

Does anybody in town have a more distinctive laugh than Bill Millerd? Has anyone had a more profound influence on Vancouver theatre?

It’s true what you’ve heard: after 45 years as the artistic managing director of the Arts Club Theatre Company, Bill Millerd will step down at the end of the 2017/2018 season.

Other writers have already written solid journalistic pieces about Millerd’s resignation. Here’s Jerry Wasserman’s take from the Vancouver Sun: And this is how Marsha Lederman framed it in The Globe and Mail:

I’d like to add something a little more personal. [Read more…]

Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off—and it was hard to care


Liz Lochhead wrote Mary Queen of Scots in 1987.

Geneva Perkins (foreground) and Erin Morgan in Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off. (Don’t worry: there is no blood.) (Photo: Nancy Caldwell)

In this amateur production at least, Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off comes across as a history lesson delivered by an only moderately hip teacher.

Liz Lochhead’s script is a rarity, a woman-centered historical drama—we watch as cousins Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I negotiate gender, power, sex, and religion—and for that we should be grateful.

Her father Henry VIII having renounced Catholicism—arguably to feed his sexual appetite—Elizabeth is a protestant. A woman who prefers control, she is known as the Virgin Queen, and she swears that, if she is to marry, she will do so as a monarch, for the good of the state, and not as a woman, for love. But you can’t help but wonder how much of her behaviour is motivated by a fear of vulnerability.

Mary, on the other hand, is unmistakably vulnerable on several fronts. Raised largely in France, she is the Catholic Queen of Scotland, a country heavily influenced by the anti-papist and misogynistic protestant leader John Knox. (Knox famously referred to women as “the monstrous regiment”.) Nonetheless, Mary marries for love and has a child. More traditionally feminine in her approach than Elizabeth, she is also beheaded. [Read more…]

Why I love theatre

Sara Bynoe, interviewed me, Colin Thomas, on Theatre Wire.

On Theatre Wire, Sara Bynoe made me cry. Well, truth be told, that’s pretty easy to do.

Want to see me lose it while talking about how much I love theatre? Here you go:


Take flight with Pterodactyl Nights

Pajama Men Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez perform Pterodactyl Nights, presented by Theatre Wire and Winterruption 2017.

Pajama Men Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez get physical in Pterodactyl Nights

Go. Laugh until you cry. That’s what I did.

The Pajama Men—aka Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez—used to be regulars at the Fringe Festival, but it’s been ten years since they’ve played Vancouver. They still rock my world.

Pterodactyl Nights, the show they’re doing here for the next couple of evenings, is a combination of improv and sketch comedy—with a through line about a bunch of passengers on a plane. But that encapsulation doesn’t begin to describe how gasp-inducingly surreal the whole thing is. Onboard, there’s a little girl named Jennifer. Her father ignores her until she pulls out the big guns: “Daddy, remember when I was alive?” she says as she slips into complete horror-movie weirdness. [Read more…]

The Men in White don’t know where they’re going

Nadeem Phillip plays Hasan in Anosh Irani's new script, Men in White.

Nadeem Phillip shares a deliciously physical characterization in Anosh Irani’s Men in White. (Emily Cooper photo)

There are a couple of scenes in the second act of The Men in White that reveal what this play might have been—and might yet be.

 In local playwright Anosh Irani’s new script, Vancouver and Bombay overlap. In Vancouver, Abdul plays cricket in Stanley Park with a team that loses game after game. In Bombay, Abdul’s teenaged brother Hasan cuts up chickens in a market and bumbles his way through the early stages of a romance with a girl named Haseena. Adbul and his teammates hit on a plan: they will bring Hasan, who is a talented cricket player, to Canada. The brothers will be reunited and Abdul’s team will win for a change.

 In Act 2, the courtship between Hasan and Haseena is hilarious and exquisite. Together, they stare at a computer image of the Gastown steam clock and struggle to comprehend why tourists are interested in it. And, in an exchange that is innocence itself, Hasan tells Haseena that his arms will always be around her—even though he has never touched more than her fingertips. [Read more…]

Squeeze yourself into Crawlspace


In Crawlspace, comedian Karen Hines explores her Toronto real-estate nightmare.

Karen Hines’s real-estate nightmare involves a racoon.

Karen Hines is a very bad girl. That’s her appeal.

Her new show, Crawlspace, was “inspired by a true story”—her very own real estate nightmare. In the version of that story that we get in Crawlspace, she poured her life savings into buying a cute little lemon-coloured house in Toronto in 2006. For all of its curb appeal, the house turned out to be no more substantial than a movie set. And the movie turned into a horror flick that involved a dead animal, financial terror, and deteriorating mental health.

Fear not. Hines finds hilarity in darkness as surely as a pig finds truffles in the mud. [Read more…]

Elle: Canadian magical realism. Yes!


Servern Thomson performs her adaptation of Douglas Glover's novel, Elle.

Severn Thompson conjures magic in the Theatre Passe Muraille production of Elle.

A woman with a sexual appetite. Imagine that.

In her stage adaptation of Douglas Glover’s novel, Elle, Severn Thompson plays a woman who has, amazingly, been drawn from history. In 1542, Marguerite de la Rocque de Roberval took a lover while she was on a voyage from France to Canada. Her uncle, the French general who was in charge of the colonial expedition, decided that an appropriate punishment for Marguerite’s lechery would be to abandon her on the Isle of Demons, just off the coast of Newfoundland. Marguerite’s lover and her nurse were unlucky enough to be deposited on the island with her. According to historical documents, Marguerite survived two winters and returned to France. [Read more…]