Archives for March 2017

Redpatch wants to bring little-known Métis history to light

Raes Calvert plays Half-Blood in Redpatch, which Calvert wrote with Sean Harris Oliver.

The troubled Half-Blood and his friend Jonathon share a moment in Redpatch,

Redpatch doesn’t work—at least it doesn’t work for me. I’m a white guy and Redpatch deals with the experience of a Métis soldier during WWI, so some might feel inclined to dismiss my criticism. But the company invited me to review the show, so here goes.

Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver’s script introduces us to a young guy who goes by the name of Half-Blood. He is determined to enlist and fight for Canada in “the war to end all wars”. Half-Blood’s grandmother, She Rides Between, warns him not to sign up. “War doesn’t make men brave,” she says. “It doesn’t make men heroes.” But Half-Blood ignores her and he is soon on the battlefields of France. There, his skills as a tracker and hunter prove useful—and lethal. He turns into a killing machine, venturing into no man’s land under the cover of darkness and slaughtering scores of German soldiers. [Read more…]

Millennium Approaches keeps its distance

Damien Atkins and Celine Stubel appear in Millennium Approaches.

Director Kim Collier alienates with her use of video in Millennium Approaches. (David Cooper photo)

There are gaping holes in director Kim Collier’s production of Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, but it’s still worth seeing. 

When you first encounter Ken MacKenzie’s set, it’s stunning. The walls of the Stanley Theatre segue into the set itself, in which a wide, shallow playing area that looks like it’s made of limestone is backed by curving lines of massive Greek columns and steeply ascending steps. We’re probably in front of a courthouse—but it could also be a bank. That makes sense because Tony Kushner’s play takes place in New York City in 1985, during the height of the first wave of the AIDS epidemic in North America, and in the middle of Ronald Reagan’s reign as President of the United States; Millennium Approaches is concerned with justice and interpersonal responsibility, especially as those themes play out in capitalist America.   [Read more…]

The Refugee Hotel features some excellent student work

Studio 58 is producing Carmen Aguirre's The Refugee Hotel.

Elizabeth Barrett (arms outstretched) anchors The Refugee Hotel. (Emily Cooper photo)

In The Refugee Hotel, playwright and director Carmen Aguirre offers an overtly political piece of art that feels like several pieces of art laid on top of one another. Sometimes it’s a bold and effective poster. Sometimes the painting is more nuanced and narrative. And sometimes it feels like the image is crudely sketched.

In The Refugee Hotel, Aguirre draws on her own experience as a refugee. In 1974, when she was six years old, her family fled the brutal US-backed Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and landed in a rundown hotel on Denman Street, a building that was also a way station for other Chileans. [Read more…]

Despite the actors’ best efforts, Valley Song lacks impact

Pacific Theatre presents Gateway Theatre's production of Athol Fugard's Valley Song.

Sereana Malani and David Adams deliver solid work in Valley Song

They were acting their hearts out and I was still bored.

South African playwright Athol Fugard’s Valley Song premiered in Johannesburg in 1995, a year after South Africa’s first post-apartheid elections.

The central characters are 75-year-old Buks and his young granddaughter Veronica. All his life, Buks has farmed on land that doesn’t technically belong to him. Now that a white Author is interested in buying that property, Buks’s livelihood is threatened. To make matters worse, Veronica, his only surviving relative, dreams of leaving the valley that is their home and becoming a singing sensation in the big city. [Read more…]

Refuge tells an important story, but not well

Mary Vingoe's Refugee is playing at the Firehall Arts Centre.

Nicola Lipman and Aadin Church do fine work in Refuge, but the interview format at the heart of the play deadens its impact. (Emily Cooper photos)

A whole lot gets described in Mary Vingoe’s Refuge. Considerably less happens.

In Refuge, Vingoe draws on the story of Habtom Kibreab, an Eritrean man who was denied refugee status in Canada and took his own life in Halifax in February of 2010. He was about to be deported to Eritrea, where he would almost certainly have been tortured and murdered.

In Refuge, Vingoe fictionalizes Kibreab’s experience and expands upon some of the issues it raises—notably the question of how to balance compassion and the threat of terrorism. [Read more…]

Belfast Girls: theatre is like music; everything has to work at the same time

Belfry Girls explores the Early Grey Orphan Scheme, which transported Irish women to Australia.

Olivia Sara Grace (Molly) and Mariam Barry (Judith) get some time alone in Belfast Girls.

Making theatre is like making music: for either activity to really work, none of the elements can be out of tune or off-rhythm. In Belfast Girls, several components coordinate nicely. Others don’t.

Playwright Jaki McCarrick starts with a fascinating historical subject: during the Irish Famine, about 4,000 young Irish women accepted free passage to Australia as part of the Earl Grey Scheme. Supposedly, the scheme was designed to give young, impoverished females fresh opportunities in the New World and to stabilize the rough-and-ready, male-dominated colony. According to Judith, one of the characters in the play, the Earl Grey Scheme was also designed to rid Ireland of many of its “public women” or prostitutes.   [Read more…]

The Pipeline Project creates a space for honest discussion about fossil fuels and climate change

The Pipeline Project explores our relationship to climate change.

Kevin Loring and Quelemia Sparrow as baffled Enbridge employees in The Pipeline Project

Probably the best thing about The Pipeline Project is that it’s a sincere invitation to a dialogue. In this age of social media, so many are so eager to establish their political bona fides—and superiority—that it’s often impossible to have a vulnerable, complicated conversation in public. It’s good to know that real, human interactions can take still take place in the theatre.

In The Pipeline Project, three writers/actors—Sebastien Archibald, Kevin Loring, and Quelemia Sparrow—explore their relationship to oil. [Read more…]

As we’re waiting for spring to break, go see Spring Awakening

William Tippery, Jess Amy Shead, and Oliver Castillo star in Spring Awakening at Pacific Theatre.

William Tippery, Jess Amy Shead, and Oliver Castillo: lots of talent, not so many years.

This production of Spring Awakening is a big gift in a small package.

 Spring Awakening, the musical is based on the revolutionary play that 26-year-old German dramatist Frank Wedekind wrote in 1891. Its candid and sympathetic handling of teenage sexual behaviour and issues—including masturbation, homosexuality, and sexual abuse by parents—was so ahead of its time that it wasn’t produced in England until 1963, and then only for two nights in a highly censored form.

 The musical, which was created by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, maintains the play’s fin-de-siècle setting but, when the characters sing, they pick up hand mics and rock out with all the furious abandon of modern teens. [Read more…]

Elbow Room Café: The Musical is in need of a clean-up

Elbow Room Café: The Musical was created by Dave Deveau and Anton Lipovetsky.

Alan Zinyk and David M. Adams dish it out in Elbow Room Café: The Musical.

It’s full of heart. It’s full of fun. And sometimes it’s a bit of a mess.

In Elbow Room Café: the Musical, creators Dave Deveau (book and lyrics) and Anton Lipovetsky (music and lyrics) pay homage to Bryan Searle and Patrice Savoie, who have been running Vancouver’s Elbow Room Café for over three decades. The Elbow Room is well known for its eggs, but Savoie made the place famous by verbally abusing his clientele. As the character Patrice says in the musical, “Where else can you swear at the customers and still get a tip?” [Read more…]