Vancouver theatre

Lucy and Jamie tend the barThe Wine Bar at The Cultch
1895 Venables Street, Vancouver

The renovated exterior Tucked away on the corner of Venables Street and Victorian Drive, a block east of  buzzing Commercial Drive, the creaky old Vancouver East Cultural Theatre had a quaint charm for theatre lovers despite its uncomfortable seats and awkwardly located washrooms.  Originally an old abandoned church that was developed into a theatre space some thirty-seven years ago, the facility suffered from structural and technical limitations and uncomfortable working conditions for casts and crews and has now been extensively renovated.

Best Before
by Rimini Protokoll (Helgard Haug  & Stefan Kaegil)
The Cultch, PuSh Festival and Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad
The Cultch
Jan 29 to Feb 6, 2010

Vancouver, BC:  As a computer-nerd/technophile of long-standing I was intrigued by the concept of taking the multi-player video game concept into the theatre and eagerly anticipated the experience of my personal avatar interacting with some 200 other avatars to conjure up  a new society in BestLand.

Best Before, an innovative  audience interactive production was developed for the PuSh Festival by Helgard Haug  & Stefan Kaegil of Rimini Protokoll, an  experimental theatre company based in Germany, working with local playwright/dramaturg, Tim Carlson.  Rimini Protokoll create  novel forms of "reality" theatre, casting non-professional actors for their "theatre of experts" projects  and often employing technology as a form of equal partner in the work.  For example for  Best before, as well as the usual team of set, video, sound and light designers, the "backstage" or "offline" development team included a computer game designer, character animator, and programmer

A Beautiful View
Written and directed by Daniel MacIvor
Ruby Slippers Theatre
Performance Works
Dec 4 to Dec 13, 2009
Also at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts
Dec 16 to 19.

Vancouver, BC:  Start with a script written by one of Canada's iconic playwright/actors and directed by the playwright himself. Feature two compelling powerful female actors with hugely synergistic on-stage chemistry in a small theatre setting where every nuance of  their performance can be seen. And focus on the ebb and flow of an intimate relationship between these two women, from casual meeting, to sexual encounter, touching on friendship, love, attraction, trust and mistrust. My expectations were high - I was expecting truly to be blown away by this play. But I confess I just did not get it.

Colleen Wheeler is "Linda" and Diane Brown is "Mitch". The telling of their story is framed by a camping trip where they have come together to talk about what happened at a Halloween party that disrupted their relationship that had developed over some twenty years.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Book by Jeffrey Lane  Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek
Based on the film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning
Orchestrations by Harold Wheeler;  Vocal music arrangements by Ted Sperling/David Yazbek; Dance music arrangements by Zane Mark

Directed and co-choreographed by Max Reimer
Co-choreographer Nathalie Marrable
Music Director Steve Thomas 

Vancouver, BC. If you have not already got your tickets to see this show pick up the phone or hit the keyboard soon because this is going to be another sellout holiday hit for the Vancouver Playhouse.

Although I usually watch cynically as Vancouver audiences give standing ovations  I have to confess that this time I was on my feet with the rest of them.  

As these photos by David Cooper show, the production was visually  appealing. The songs were entertaining, the lyrics witty, the choreography terrific- and can you call any one performance a standout when all the performances including the ensemble dancing were standouts? Well, yes I guess you can.

Andrew Wheeler plays Lawrence Jameson, a  suave, sophisticated, elegant con-man who leads a good life as a "prince" on the French Riviera, by charming rich women out of their money and possessions. Smooth as Michael Caine was in the 1988 film version,  I remember thinking at the time that he would never have been able to con me. But I have to admit that  if I encountered Wheeler's smooth "prince" persona - and if he could dance - I mean real  ballroom not the stage variety - he could probably con me into supporting a war effort in his non-existent kingdom as easily as he did the other women- as long as he would waltz with me!

  Lawrence's ally in his nefarious activies is Andre, the chief of police, played with gusto and a wonderfully bad French accent by David Marr, who really excels in this type of comic role.

Directed by  Stephen Drover
Pacific Theatre
A :Pound of Flesh and Pacific Theatre Co-Production    
October 7th to 17th


You take a brilliantly written script that turns the Judas Iscariot story inside out, set it in a court room, lace it with profanity, people it with some of the best actors in town, and you have a riveting evening of theatre. 

Jeff Meadows, Sasa Brown, Charlie Gallant and Julie McIsaac in Black Comedy. Photo by Emily CooperBlack Comedy by Peter Shaffer
and The Marriage Proposal by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Dean Paul Gibson
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Sept 10 to Oct  11, 2009

Vancouver, BC:  The Arts Club opened its 46th season with a riotously funny evening of  two plays by writers who would not at first come to my mind as writers of comedy. Peter Shaffer after all, is probably best known for Equus - a  intensely disturbing  psychological drama.   And I have never really found the Chekhov plays that I have seen or read to be exactly a bundle of laughs.

But as the curtain raiser to Shaffer's Black Comedy, Artistic Director Bill Millerd and Director Dean Paul Gibson chose Chekov's The Marriage Proposal.  And what an inspired choice.

Brilliantly performed by Sasa Brown as Natalia Stepanova, Simon Bradbury as Stepan Stepanovitch Chubkov and Jeff Meadows as Ivan Vassilevitch Lomov, it was clever and very funny.

Ivan, a lanky hypochondriac with palpitations and a dragging leg, comes to propose marriage to Stepan's 25 year old "on-the-shelf" daughter,  Natalia, but before he actually gets a chance to propose, they get into an argument about who owns a piece of land and he leaves inma huff. Natalia realizes that her "last chance for marriage" has just walked out the door and sends her father to get him back.

He returns but her argumentative nature gets the better of her and they get into another argument, this time drawing in her father. Both Bradbury and Meadows are hilarious but Sasa Brown's portrayal of a glowering, desperate, determined Natalia steals the show in this short farce.  I loved it.

 Marco Soriano, Laura  Di Cicco and Lucia Frangione in Via Beatrice. Via Beatrice
Written by Jenn Griffin
Composed and musically directed by Peggy Lee
Directed by  Matthew Bisset
Fugue Theatre
Playwrights Theatre Centre, Granville Island
13th - 22nd August, 2009

Vancouver, BC:  Almost exactly a year ago  I watched a staged reading of an early version of Via Beatrice at the Playwrights Theatre Centre. At the time I commented on my Works in Progress page commentary that  " It is always a privilege to get a peek into the creation of a new work, and then, hopefully, to see a full production of the finished version." And it really was exciting to see the polished production that this work has become in a year.

David Adams, Michelle Creber, Dana Luccock in Annie. Photograph by Tim Matheson
   Book by Thomas Meehan
Music by Charles Strouse,  Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Directed by Glynis Leyshon
Music Director Wendy Bross Stuart
Choreographer Jason Franco

Vancouver,BC:  One would have to have a heart of steel, or maybe no heart at all, not to adore feisty little orphan Annie and her unshaken belief that her parents will return to take her away from Miss Hannigan and the orphanage.  The story of Annie and Daddy Warbucks, however implausible (it was based on a comic strip after all) taps into the dream of  any lonely, lost or abused child; namely that someone big and strong and loving will come to rescue them. And then as well as its optimism and emotional appeal,  the musical is jam-packed with well known songs that stay in your head, long after the curtain falls. Annie  is great family entertainment.

Bard on the Beach at Vanier ParkSummer in Vancouver means lots of theatre out of doors. I have seen seven al fresco productions and all are currently still running for you to enjoy.

Bard on the Beach has its four Shakespeare offerings under the tents in Vanier Park; a tragedy - Othello, a history play - Richard II, the first offering in Bard's Kings History Cycle; and two comedies, All's Well that Ends Well and The Comedy of Errors.

Up in Queen Elizabeth Park you can catch The Road to Canterbury, and in Stanley Park at the Malkin Bowl, Theatre Under the Stars is running Thoroughly Modern Millie and Annie on alternate nights. 

Sunny weather is predicted for the next while so go and enjoy the shows.

Also opening this week at the Playwright's Theatre Centre is an original work by local actor/playwright Jenn Griffin, called Via Beatrice, that I saw last year as a Work in Progress and thoroughly enjoyed. I look forward to seeing the full production. Check it out too.

Haig Sutherland as Richard II. Photo by David BlueRichard II by William Shakespeare
Directed by Christopher Weddell
Studio Stage at Vanier Park
Bard on the Beach
till September 18, 2009

Vancouver, BC:
Vancouver's Bard on the Beach Company has undertaken as a "noble goal" to stage Shakespeare's entire dramatic canon by the 25th anniversary of the company, five years hence. As part of this ambitious objective, Bard will be presenting a cycle of Shakespeare's History Plays through the 2009 to 2011 seasons as discussed in my How They See It  Chat  with Bard Artistic Director, Christopher Gaze.This year's staging of Richard II starts this series of plays. While most people have some familiarity with the more frequently produced story of Shakespeare's  twisted, malevolent, murdering Richard III, I suspect that, like I until recently, they don't know too much about where Richard II fits into the whole English kings / Wars of the Roses saga.

Here is a bit of the pre-history.
King Edward III had five sons who survived to adulthood.  The oldest , Edward the Black Prince was the father of Richard. When the Black Prince died, Richard became the heir apparent and a year later, on the death of  Edward III, the 10 year old  Richard succeeded his grandfather as King of England. The country was governed by councils until Richard was old enough to rule. Two of Richard's uncles, John of Gaunt, a man of influence and power, and Edmund, Duke of York, and their sons also play important parts in Shakespeare's version of events. The murder of a third uncle, the Duke of Gloucester is the trigger that initiates the events in  Richrd II.

richWhen the play begins King Richard II (Haig Sutherland) has a problem.  His cousin Henry Bolingbroke (John Murphy) has accused Sir Thomas Mowbray (Craig Erickson) of murdering Riichard's uncle the Duke of Gloucester. Rumour has it that Richard had secretly ordered the murder. The king decides that Bolingbroke and Gloucester may duel it out, but before the fight begins, Richard exiles Bolingbroke for ten years and banishes Mowbray for life. Bolingbroke leaves, and shortly thereafter his father, John of  Gaunt (Duncan Fraser), dies. The King needs money to suppress a rebellion in Ireland so he disinherits Bolingbroke, grabs the estate and takes off to Ireland, leaving his uncle, Duke of York (David Marr) in charge. Bolingbroke comes back to England to demand his inheritance be restored. The populace support Bolingbroke and not Richard. The king's pals, Sir John Bushy (Craig Erickson)  and Sir  Henry Green (Ashley O'Connell) wont defend him. Having screwed up royally, so to speak, in Ireland, Richard arrives back in England with no army and no support.  He cedes his crown to Bolingbroke who becomes King Henry IV.  Bolingbroke expresses concern about his son, Henry,  who is running wild in bad company - setting the storyline up for Henry IV parts 1 and 2. Richard goes to prison to reflect on his life and folly but is murdered there by Exton (Craig Erickson)..  The new king  is "horrified" when told of the murder, exiles Exton, and decides to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to atone.  


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