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 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…]

Kinky Boots: not fashion-forward, but a decent fit

J. Harrison Ghee plays Lola in Harvey Fierstein's Kinky Boots.

Playing Lola, J. Harrison Ghee goes all Shirley Bassey in Kinky Boots.

Let’s hear it for Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald. When I was taking the Skytrain home from Kinky Boots, a bunch of strangers who had been to the show were all bonding with one another by talking about the jump splits that Fitzgerald does—in full drag, including heels. Full splits. From way up in the air. It’s impressive.

Fitzgerald is part of a gaggle of drag queens called the Angels, a kind of back-up group that is one of the best things about Kinky Boots. I’ve done a lot of drag and I know my share of drag queens. These girls feel like the real thing. And they’re having fun.

The rest of Kinky Boots is okay, a mix of the moving and the predictable. [Read more…]

Corleone: the Shakespearean Godfather makes an offer you shouldn’t refuse

In David Mann's play, Corleone: the Shakespearean Godfather, Nicola Lipman and Stefania Indelicato play the leads.

Nicola Lipman and Stefania Indelicato play Vito and Michael Corleone. Don’t mess with them.

Classic Chic’s production of Corleone: the Shakespearean Godfather lays a convention on top of a gimmick—and it works.

In Corleone, playwright David Mann reimagines the plot of the first Godfather movie through the filter of Shakespearean language and, to a certain extent, Shakespearean sensibilities. Characters speak in iambic pentameter and are less likely to die in a hail of bullets than from a poisoned pearl in their wine goblet. In this production at least, the costuming stays in the same time period as the film: 1945 to 1955. [Read more…]

You don’t need to be in the audience for The Audience

Anna Galvin plays Elizabeth II in the Arts Club Theatre's production of The Audience.

British prime ministers meet with Elizabeth II in The Audience—but you don’t need to.

You know the evening isn’t going well when returning to your seat for Act 2 makes you feel hopeless.

The primary problem with The Audience is Peter Morgan’s script, in which he imagines some of the weekly meetings that Elizabeth II has had with her prime ministers since the end of WWII.

Morgan, who has made a living out of writing about her majesty—he also authored the Helen Mirren film The Queen, and the Netflix series The Crown—is clearly fond of his cash cow. He presents Elizabeth as a left-leaning, dog-loving, moderately witty paragon of virtue. Prime Minister David Cameron tells her: “Your ordinariness as a human being will be your greatest asset as a sovereign.” This presentation of flawlessness, in which even the character’s limitations are celebrated, makes her boring. [Read more…]

Cavalia’s Odysseo celebrates equine beauty on a vast scale

Odysseo combines thrills with lyricism in a unique equine spectacle.

Odysseo is thrilling.

Between the poles of lyricism and danger in the equine spectacle Odysseo, lies a vast show.

I want to share two moments from opening night.

The first is the opener: a single, riderless horse enters the huge playing area and sniffs around in the dappled light. We are invited to simply gaze at his beauty—at his musculature, movement, and innocence. Slowly, other horses join him.

This lyrical quality resurfaces repeatedly throughout the evening, often when human performer Elise Verdoncq is present. In one of the most impressive acts, she guides nine white Arabian horses through their choreography. There are no bridles and no whips—only Verdoncq’s whisper and her gestures. As the horses gallop around her in circles, change direction, and weave in and out, the communication between the human and the other animals is magical. [Read more…]

Cuisine and Confessions is food for the soul

Melvin Diggs and Sidney Bateman perform a hoop-diving routing in Cuisine and Confessions.

In Cuisine and Confessions, Melvin Diggs and Sidney Bateman fly through portals in space.

Friends, don’t even read to the end of the review before you book tickets for Cuisine and Confessions. Do it now. Here’s the link:

Having done that, you should know: Cuisine and Confessions is one of the most sublime acrobatic performances you’ll ever see. Québec company The 7 Fingers has gathered performers from around the world. In Cuisine and Confessions, these artists share their considerable skills as well as personal stories about what food has meant in their lives. While doing that, they also cook. At the end of the performance, you can share in the meal.

I defy you to see this show and not shout out in joy and wonder. [Read more…]

BULL—as in “bully” and “bullfight”, but not “Bully for them.”

Kate Isaac plays Isobel in Made it Ma's Equity Co-op production of Mike Bartlett's Bull.

Kate Isaac doesn’t really get bloody playing Isobel in Bull. Must be a metaphor.

I’ve never encountered a script less in need of a spoiler alert, but I’m going to issue one anyway. If you’d prefer to remain innocent of information regarding the plot of Bull, read no further.

The surprising thing about the plot twists in Bull is that there aren’t any.

[Read more…]

Accept the challenge of The Nether

Julia Siedlanowska plays the innocent Iris in The Nether.

Julia Siedlanowska plays the innocent Iris in The Nether.

Don’t be afraid of this play. Redcurrant Collective’s mounting of The Nether, which was a hit at the Fringe, is bound to be one of the best shows of the 2016/2017 season.

Jennifer Haley’s script is thematically intriguing and impeccably constructed. A police procedural set it in the near future, it tips back and forth between the ordinary world and the Nether, an iteration of the internet that contains virtual worlds where customers can spend time while assuming characters.

Off the top, a detective named Morris, who seems to be a vigilante, is interrogating Sims, who has set up a virtual world called the Hideaway. It’s an idealized Victorian realm that still has trees and blue skies, which are no longer generally available on planet Earth. It’s also a place where pedophiles can have sex with children, and murder them if they choose. (Don’t recoil; The Nether is neither sensationalistic nor inhumane.) [Read more…]

By Heart touches the heart—sometimes

Tiago Rodriguez conducts a chorus of volunteers in By Heart.

Tiago Rodriguez conducts a chorus of volunteers in By Heart.

Tiago Rodrigues is a charmer. By Heart can be transcendent: it moved me to tears more than once. And, in between those bits, I sometimes found it pedestrian.

In By Heart, Rodrigues teaches ten audience volunteers a 14-line poem. The night I attended, there was no problem filling the on-stage chairs; a couple of eager folks were standing in the aisles before Rodrigues was even ready for them. [Read more…]