Last Train In: What do you do when you’re stranded in an elevator-free train station with your wheelchair?

Rice and beans theatre presents Last Train In at the Vancity Culture Lab.

In Last Train In, Adam Grant Warren looks at the ways in which we craft narratives about disability to serve our own needs. (Photo by Bold Rezolution Studio)

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine who uses a wheelchair posted on Facebook about a recent tenting adventure: “When we go crip-camping, we like to yell out things to each other like: ‘It’s so nice to see you get out’ and ‘You’re so inspirational’, and then we laugh and laugh.”

My friend was having fun with the heroic disability narrative, which involves, among other things, the cultural tendency to define the disabled almost exclusively in terms of their challenges and to demand that their stories be presented as triumphant. For the able-bodied, disabilities become metaphors for emotional states—and we like happy endings.

That narrative is what writer and solo performer Adam Grant Warren is taking on in Last Train In. Warren, who was born with cerebral palsy, also explores his complicity, as a physically challenged guy, in that heroic narrative. He asks, “What’s in it for the disabled?” [Read more…]

See Corey Payette’s Children of God. And stay for the conversation afterwards.

Children of God is an Urban Ink production, in collaboration with The Cultch and the National Arts Centre.

An ecstatic dance is one of the successful movement sequences that Raes Calvert contributes to Children of God.

Just entering the theatre for the premiere performance of Children of God, you could tell what a monumental opening this was going to be.  

Corey Payette’s new musical speaks from the heart to one of the most important subjects facing all inhabitants of the territory that we now call Canada: the impact of the residential school system. And it does so at a critical moment. We are in the midst of a wave of cultural change that has been energized by First Nations activism and by Senator Murray Sinclair’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Canada and the many First Nations within the country are no longer simply reeling from the legacy of residential schools; many parties are now actively working towards healing.  [Read more…]

La Merda is the shit (and that’s mostly a good thing)

Cristian Ceresoli's La Merda is playing at The Cultch

Silvia Gallerano embodies the ferocious, wounded anima in La Merda

She’s mesmerizing.

When you enter the theatre, solo performer Silvia Gallerano is sitting on a high, black stool. She’s naked and she mumbles, intermittently, into a hand-held microphone.

When the lights dim and the show starts, her body, lit from above at this point by Giorgio Gagliano, appears starkly sculptural. And as the text, which was written by Cristian Ceresoli, starts to spill from Gallerano’s mouth, you can’t take your eyes off her lips, which are painted bright orange. Her mouth is slack, but incredibly mobile—almost trembling. And her tone is nasal and querulous. [Read more…]

Mump and Smoot: dispatches from the battlefield of clown horror

Michael Kennard and John Turner are clown duo Mump and Smoot.

Like all of us, Mump and Smoot are trapped in mortality. But they’re funny about it.

It’s not you, Mump and Smoot. It’s me. Maybe.

I have loved the duo Mump and Smoot for decades. Really. Since the ‘80s. These self-described “clowns of horror” always charm me and always push me towards hysteria. Their latest offering, Mump and Smoot in Anything, is no exception.

In it, they are imprisoned in a kind of existential hell by a ghoulish, white-gowned female figure named Knooma. Off the top, it’s established that every time Mump and Smoot try to venture beyond the prison of the stage—into the wings say, or through the fourth wall—they get electrocuted. Throughout the evening, Knooma presents them with a number of trials, which, from another angle, are vaudevillian sketches. In “The Escape”, they must free themselves from a small, barred cage. In “The Romp”, they negotiate competition, in the form of an equestrian contest. (The existential hell concept gets a little loose at this point.) And, in “The Remedy”, they take turns giving one another psychiatric exams.

Mump and Smoot are related to Ronald Macdonald and happy-slappy parade clowns only in your nightmares. Their shows always feature blood, dismemberment, and, usually, some form of disembowelment. Mump and Smoot play with the horror—and the absurdity—of mortality. Don’t bring your kids. [Read more…]

Submit your body to Le Patin Libre’s Vertical Influences

Vertical Influences, by Le Patin Libre, is at the Britannia Ice Rink

Vertical Influences is freedom on ice. (Thanks to Alex Waterhouse-Hayward for this fabulous photo.)

I used to have a partner who would cry sometimes after sex. Watching Vertical Influences, I teared up again and again, and my tears were coming from the same place: I was moved by the body’s beauty and its capacity for joy.

This performance from Québec company Le Patin Libre is modern dance on ice. Forget what you know or think you know about ice dancing, Ice Capades, Holiday on Ice, or any kind of competitive figure skating. Le Patin Libre is exploring the expressive potential of skating— freed from the restraints of sports and kitsch.   [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…]

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…]

East Van Panto: Little Red Riding Hood. Buy your tickets now.

East Van Panto: Little Red Riding Hood, Andrew McNee, Chirag Naik

The wolf (Andrew McNee) and one of the little pigs (Chirag Naik) share an uncomfortable home life in Little Red Riding Hood. (Emily Cooper photo)

The East Van Panto is now officially the best holiday tradition in Vancouver—in my Vancouver, anyway.

I started loving this year’s panto, Little Red Riding Hood, the minute I entered the theatre. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy being in an audience that has a whole whack of kids in it. Being swept along by their enthusiasm is like, I don’t know, surfing on bubbles.

And Little Red Riding Hood, which is the fourth annual panto that Theatre Replacement has produced and The Cultch has presented, is also the best of the bunch. That’s no knock on the others; these shows have been getting better every year. This success of the 2016 edition is due in large part to the wacky script by Mark Chavez and to Andrew McNee’s ridiculously charismatic performance in a number of roles—most notably as the giddy, sexy wolf. [Read more…]

The right night for Fight Night


Fight Night, The Cultch

Belgians, including Angelo Tijssens, who is the referee/host of Fight Night, are a lot more fun than they look.

They were manipulating the hell out of me and I loved it.

In Fight Night, which is produced by a bunch of companies led by Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed, politics becomes a literal game. Five actors vie for audience members’ votes and everybody in the crowd gets a little keypad that allows us to register our preferences in four elimination rounds.

Here’s the thing: as in Donald Trump’s presidential bid, none of the campaigns are based on policy. As in the Brexit referendum, the outcome could very well defy logic.

Mostly, the campaigns are based on likeability, on the ephemeral quality that we identify as trustworthiness. When we first meet them, the players are all wearing boxers’ robes; the set, like that on TV’s The Voice, is designed to look like a boxing ring. Wearing his robe, a contestant named Michai looked scruffy and I interpreted his gestures as defiant. But, when he doffed the robe, he was wearing a stylin’ cardigan that made me like him and see him as edgy. Taking advantage of that spin, he soon declared himself an underdog. [Read more…]

Piya Behrupiya (Twelfth Night): folly goes Bollywood

Piya Behrupiya (Twelfth Night), The Cultch, The Company Theatre

The charms of Geetanjali Kulkarni’s crossdressing Viola make Mansi Multani’s Olivia swoon.

A loud yes and a quieter no.

In 2012, London’s Globe Theatre commissioned The Company Theatre of Mumbai to produce a desi (Indian or South Asian) version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Piya Behrupiya, which translates as “Lover Impersonator”, is the raucously charming result. [Read more…]