Archive for the ‘Vancouver’ Category
by Bob Pember
The Arts Club’s Stanley theatre has started the new year off with the premiere of Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily written by Canadian playwright and author Joanna McClelland Glass. Starring theatre veterans Nicola Cavendish and Fiona Reid, the play focuses on the binary lives of two women in their mid sixties taking different approaches to their problems with growing old and settling down. With expertly-delivered astute monologues, the play is remarkably accessible to people in all stages of life.
While the play stars both Cavendish and Reid, the two are never on stage together. Act One has Cavendish giving her portrayal of Peggy, the daily housekeeper to Mrs. Dexter, a once wealthy woman who has now forced to sell her house after her husband left her for her best friend and confidant. Peggy grew up in a poor part of town in Newfoundland, and relays the bumps in her life—having four children (three of which survived infancy) with an unfaithful man who left once the children were born. Cavendish crafts this simple woman with ease on stage and keeps the audience engaged and laughing while going about her daily chores in the kitchen set.
Fiona Reid’s character reads a little more complex than her busybody counterpart from the first act. When the audience first sees Mrs. Dexter, she has already sent Peggy home early out of minor frustrations and has decided that three o’clock in the afternoon is good enough time to start on the rye and ginger. Having been humiliated in the neighbourhood by her philandering husband, Mrs. Dexter has confined herself to night robes and alcohol while she waits for “the madding crowd” to come and buy her house. Though her story is tragic and her future seems bleak, she still manages to put the audience in hysterics at times—she continues calling her old friend ‘the rodent’ while mixing her drinks about four parts rye to one splash of ginger ale and swearing at her lazy children over the phone. While Cavendish was superb, Reid shone in her character and found a way to make an ex-upper class senior woman funny, captivating and emotionally moving.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily to anyone wanting a unique and rewarding theatre experience. Not only do the actors deliver professional and sensitive performances, but the format of the two extended monologues creates a fresh feel in the theatre and is executed well through the accomplished script.
Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily runs until February 7th at the Arts Club’s Stanley Theatre.
The texture of a pair of jeans, the folds of a leather jacket, the draping of a canvas bag – all of these everyday objects, are the subjects of Brian Boulton’s work. Referenced from his own digital photographs, the artist uses graphite to render, in hyper-realist detail, anonymous subjects in the kind of street clothes we see daily. Without names, faces, or even background details, the full-body figures—all male—are caught unaware, usually from behind—about to cross a street, in the midst of a conversation, walking. With no context other than a frame and white backdrop—without the urban environment in which they would blend—Boulton’s pedestrians pop out at the viewer. Our attention becomes focused on the details of strangers. An underlying sensuality emerges in their inhibition. The unknown figures have a subtle but undeniable appeal.
In his latest show, Boulton is exhibiting a new series of portraits, the type that his rapidly growing following has come to expect, but also examples of his work’s new directions. Seven of the pieces are anonymous—the subject facing away, nameless. But three new ones are of one subject in particular, Boulton’s muse, who is turned slightly towards us. A life-size piece, every fold, crease and stitch drawn in real-space, will greet gallery patrons as the Winsor Gallery presents Brian Boulton: Drawings, November 4 – 29, 2009.
The artist began the series 10 years ago as a natural confluence of two interests he has had since he was a teen: photography and drawing.
After studying architectural rendering at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, BC, Boulton moved to Vancouver. Here, he studied Film and Art History at Langara College and immersed himself in the arts scene. He has been employed in the arts and worked in galleries and with other artists for over 30 years.
A significant turning point was assisting his friend and mentor Attila Richard Lukacs. “It was supposed to be for two weeks, and turned into two years,” says Boulton. “To go into a studio with him, it was like throwing on a switch in my brain. I thought, ‘This is how to work. This is a working studio’.”
Lukacs was an early supporter—as early as possible, considering Boulton didn’t begin to draw seriously until he started his series of anonymous street portraiture. “I’d always avoided what I do best,” he says.
Drawing in Vancouver has recently resurged, with the success of this past summer’s Drawn Festival. The three-week event featured the work of dozens of artists displayed in multiple Vancouver-area galleries and museums in the first exhibit of its kind in Canada.
To Boulton, drawing connects with people in a very basic way. “People have a desire to be entertained, and a desire, especially now, to connect with art. Drawing does that automatically.” However, it is the combination of Boulton’s technical mastery and provocative subject matter, which grabs the viewers’ attention.
“As an emerging talent who creates sophisticated work, Brian Boulton embodies everything we look for in an artist at the Winsor Gallery,” says Jennifer Winsor. “His work is striking in its simplicity, while at the same time beguiles viewers with his drawing skills.”
A long-time people watcher, Boulton sums up his feelings about his work in a simple statement.
“It’s not the infrastructure that makes a city,” says the artist. “It’s the people.”
Brian Bolton: Drawings runs at the Winsor Gallery, 3025 Granville Street, from November 4-29.
I went to Evil Dead: The Musical thinking I was all-but-guaranteed to see a great show. By my reckoning, the three classic Evil Dead movies could be adapted into a gory stage musical a hundred different ways, but so long as that essential Evil Dead spirit was preserved, the show couldn’t go wrong.
But alas, the show went pretty wrong. This production certainly looks like Evil Dead—it’s got the demons, the chain-saw, the gore, and many of the films’ most memorable catch-phrases—but unfortunately, somewhere along the line it became possessed by a malevolent spirit of Mediocrity. At best, an occasional glimmer of Evil Dead’s true soul shines through as it struggles mightily against the will of its captor, but in the end, sadly, Mediocrity wins the day.
All through the opening-night show, I could hear Mediocrity’s phantom whisper, urging the writers and director to forsake the clever for the dumb and obvious, the straight gag for the wide-eyed mug. When the hapless Cheryl makes an aside about how she is walking off alone into the deep dark woods, it’s supposed to be funny because she’s so self-aware about what she’s doing. The problem is, that joke has already been done so many times that it would actually be funnier—not to mention more faithful to the original—to just walk off alone into the deep dark woods without reflection, just like they do in the movies.
And that’s the critical error that hamstrings this show. The Evil Dead movies succeeded by taking the clichés of the horror-movie genre and straight-facedly amping them up to extremes; this musical version disappoints by making its characters constantly pull faces at the audience, apparently fully aware that they are disposable cardboard characters in a supernatural horror-comedy stage musical.
And disposable cardboard characters they are, unnecessarily hammed up from their film counterparts because today’s audiences apparently hunger to see the same damned thing over and over. Two characters in particular—a dumb chauvinist jock and his slutty bimbo girlfriend—have been done a million times before, and parodied a million times more. This production merely re-hashes the standard parody, doing nothing to transcend the clichés and make these stock characters funny again—instead, we’re supposed to laugh merely because the dumb jock is really chauvinist and the bimbo is really slutty. Yawn.
However, this show is not without its charms, most of which emanate from Scott Walters’ Ash. Ash is the hero of this story, and he pulls double-duty here, because on top of saving humanity from evil forces beyond our imaginations, he also saves this show from itself. Walters has the stature, charisma and pure physical energy to pull off Ash’s manic machismo-slash-terror, and his dexterity and sharp timing make the show’s set-piece slapstick scenes—such as Ash’s mortal battles with his own demon-possessed hand—laugh-out-loud funny.
Thanks to Walters, Mat Baker’s sadly under-utilized Jake, an impressive set and some fun, gory violence, this production is worth at least half its $32-$35 ticket price. Since one can buy all three Evil Dead DVDs for about the same price as this show, my advice is to make sure you own (and love) the movies that inspired Evil Dead: The Musical before you consider forking out for this merely semi-satisfying show.
At the Norman Rothstein Theatre (950 West 41st Avenue at Oak) until November 7. Info and tickets at http://www.dsrproductions.com/
By Bob Pember
The Vancouver Arts Club is kicking off its forty-sixth season with the Peter Shaffer play Black Comedy. Set in the mid-sixties, the play follows a struggling artist as he tries to keep things together in his London apartment, despite being hopelessly clothed in lies and having to cover his tracks in the dark lest he lose the attention of a potential patron and the approval of his fiancée’s father. Anton Chekhov’s The Marriage Proposal, set in 1892 and with a similar, farcical approach to marriage, is serving as the curtain warmer to precede Black Comedy. The two shows play well off each other and work together to maintain levity and laughter in the theatre, setting the Arts Club’s season off to a great start.
The Marriage Proposal is a brief story about one farm owner wishing to propose to his neighbour’s daughter, if he could only stop arguing over the property line. A sample of the cast from Black Comedy gets to warm up with this physical and endearing one-act comedy that serves as a preview of the talent in store for the evening. The lead character Ivan (played by Jeff Meadows who later appears as Harold Gorringe in Black Comedy) gets the audience to a laughing start with an expert portrayal of the over-anxious and physically awkward suitor whose frightened attempts to propose to Natalia (played by Sasa Brown, the female lead Clea in Black Comedy) get put aside for an argument over who has the rights to a certain small piece of land. Though quaint and lower brow, The Marriage Proposal is well-acted and a fitting start to the evening.
Black Comedy is led by Charlie Gallant who plays the well-intentioned but sadly dim-witted Brindsley Miller. What makes the play an incredibly unique effort is its use of lighting in the development of the plot. The title acts as a pun, alluding to the unlit set as the characters navigate through the play entirely in the dark. This is where the play becomes cunningly physical and tightly married to the lighting technician; whenever the characters are set in the dark, the audience can see them in plain light. But, whenever a match is lit or a flashlight is found, the house lights are turned off and the audience is subjected to the dark. The play opens with a five minute scene consisting of the lead characters arranging the set without any light in the theatre until “a fuse is blown” and the lights come on in the theatre. Even though the stage is lit, the actors begin stumbling around as if in total darkness in an acting challenge that’s well-met by the veteran Vancouver players.
Any physical comedy runs the risk of being campy and running into “Benny Hill” slapstick territory, but the strength of the acting carries the play and it works seamlessly. The expert lighting creates a rare effect, expanding the capacity of live theatre—a welcome change from another night at the playhouse. Black Comedy brings refreshment for those in the theatre who love to be kept on their toes.
Black Comedy is playing at Arts Club’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until October 11.
Eight days and 22 reviews into the 2009 Fringe Festival, our intrepid reviewer is now teetering on the edge of a complete nervous breakdown. Good Lord, the poor man has deteriorated to the point where he has the audacity to pan a critically-acclaimed touring production (see ‘The Seven Lives of Louis Riel” below). Behold his latest six reviews, listed alphabetically by last letter in the title:
In the funniest solo show at this year’s Fringe, “Master of Ignorance” Vaguen exhorts you to unlock the power of your ignorance, stop thinking and start living. A relentlessly brilliant send-up of motivational speaking and pop psychology, this show is guaranteed to delight. And delight again. And delight yet again. Don’t be so ignorant as to miss this one!
Until September 20 at Performance Works on Granville Island (Fringe venue 6)
The first of the three monologues in this show, the story of a cold-hearted midwife’s murderous mission to conceive a child in 1930’s Appalachia, is the best monologue from a female performer I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe. The second and third chapters—which follow the midwife’s soul through two subsequent reincarnations, the first as a yoga-enthused housewife and the second as a stressed-out film producer—don’t come up to the level of the first but this is still an impressive show. If your Fringe karma isn’t what it ought to be, Afterlife will certainly give it a bump.
Until September 18 at Playwrights Theatre Centre on Granville Island (Fringe venue 3)
Fringe theatre doesn’t get much Fringier than this. Actress Becky Poole’s cousin has an unusual form of epilepsy called Landau-Kleffner syndrome, and her family’s experience with this illness is the jumping-off point for this striking nonlinear show, which combines insights into rare neurological disorders with musical numbers and dreamlike visions of heroes and hope. This is the sort of oddball experimental fare you can only see at the Fringe, and most of it actually works—in my favourite segment Poole dons a Batman costume and accompanies a YouTube clip of an amateur opera singer with a musical saw. An honest, thoughtful, and completely off-the-wall Fringe gem.
Until September 20 at Playwrights Theatre Centre on Granville Island (Fringe venue 3)
A troubled writer moves into an allegedly haunted Vancouver Island house intending to write a biography of its ghost, but ultimately reveals herself to be more haunted than the house itself. A dark, dense and demented journey into the tormented inner world of a woman on the edge, Biographies of the Dead and Dying gets top marks for its brilliantly bleak atmosphere and inventive staging—but in the end, the overwhelming coldness of the production left me, well, cold.
Until September 19 at Havana (1212 Commercial Drive; Fringe venue F)
This facile, tickle-trunk take on Canadian history gets my “Most Overrated Fringe Show of 2009” award. It comes as no surprise that the CBC gave it five stars and called it a “must-see”, because The Seven Lives of Louis Riel is precisely the sort of pandering CanCon drivel you’d expect the CBC to be all over like flies on a pile of horse dung during the Battle of Loon Lake on June 3, 1885. Not so much a good show as a good performance by a magician intent on deceiving you into believing you’ve seen a good show, this hour of formulaic buffoonery will likely leave you gasping with glee if you laugh out loud at the Air Farce and insulted if you don’t. Almost desperately likable performer Ryan Gladstone takes no risks whatsoever, although he certainly pretends to, dropping a few token swears and then gleefully bragging about how “dirty” the show is. There are clever and inventive moments during this production but Gladstone is clearly using his considerable talents for evil in this calculated exercise in safe, ersatz-Fringe blowjobbery.
Until September 18 at Havana (1212 Commercial Drive; Fringe venue F)
Comedic sex and relationship expert Daniel Packard comes off as gayer than famed sex and relationship expert Dan Savage, but not only is he not gay, he also doesn’t have a fraction of Savage’s pansexual knowledge. Which is essential in a town like this, a point made painfully obvious when Packard—who openly admits that his act is based on oversimplified men-and-women-are-different stereotyping—was stumped by a very straightforward question from a lesbian couple. Some free advice from this bisexual reviewer: If you’re going to dispense sex and relationship advice at an alternative theatre festival in Vancouver in the year 2009, I think you need to know something about queers. Especially when you talk up how gay you are.
Until September 19 at Performance Works on Granville Island (Fringe venue 6)
Young indie types can be a dour, hard-to-impress bunch, and they were out in force to see electro-rocker John Vanderslice at the Media Club on September 16. Resplendent in their thick-rimmed glasses, alabaster, never-went-to-the-beach-all-summer complexions, and heavy cloaks of social awkwardness, it took 40 minutes of Vanderslice’s 70-minute set for those stiffs to finally warm up. But warm up they did, reenergizing the band as their pouts turned to smiles and they thrilled to that strange and unfamiliar emotion we humans call happiness.
Alright, enough making fun of the indie kids. Vanderslice opened his 70-minute set with “Too Much Time”…
…the strongest cut from his new album Romanian Names and one of the most beautiful songs he’s ever recorded. This gave way to a solid set of old and new favourites. Vanderslice’s carefully-produced recordings have a delicate quality that never seems to come through onstage, but this tour’s live arrangements did not disappoint, the familiar electronic elements effectively complimented by low-register acoustic instruments such as a stand-up bass, bass clarinet and baritone sax. Clearly delighted with the results, at one point he had his keyboardist and clarinetist replay part of a song unaccompanied by the rest of the band, simply because he thought their parts were so lovely they should be appreciated without the distractions of drums, guitar and vocals.
After an hour onstage the ever-cheerful Vanderslice wrapped the show with his signature unplugged encore, where the band came off stage with their instruments and played two acoustic songs in the middle of the club floor with the audience crowded around—a charming coda that brought the band and audience together like friends singing songs together at the beach. And since, as mentioned above, most of his audience never made it to the beach this summer, this warm and affectionate send-off only reconfirmed Vanderslice’s status as an essential indie artist.
By Laura Melvin
Vancouver alt-rock mainstay, Ryan Dahle, played to a crowded Biltmore Cabaret Thursday night at the release party for his first solo album, Irrational Anthems. Most people associate Dahle, and his brother Kurt, with the bands Age of Electric and Limblifter, both of which had massive success in the 90s. After Age of Electric disbanded and his brother moved on to the New Pornographers, Dahle recruited new Limblifter members—including Meegee Bradfield who joins him on his solo disc—to keep the band alive. These days, Dahle takes his talent and creativity and channels it into producing albums for fellow Canadians and Vancouverites Hot Hot Heat and The Manvils. Looks like Ryan has talent and creativity to spare, however, with a solo album that has all the energy of Age of Electric or Limblifter—and unique, thought provoking song titles and lyrics.
To help celebrate his solo debut, Dahle had Canadian artists Debra-Jean and Prairie Cat start the party. Opener Debra-Jean enchanted the audience with a simple three-guitar arrangement and impressively powerful and emotive vocals. Prairie Cat followed with a fun, crowd-pleasing set, with a lot of songs about ex-girlfriends, which effectively warmed up the Biltmore and filled the dance floor. By the time Dahle began his set, the crowd had crammed in front of the stage: Neck-craning and standing on tip-toe became the dominant dance moves of the night.
Irrational Anthems is an intriguing and infectious album, complete with an eye-catching album cover that looks a lot like a jungle gym made of PVC tubing. With an album like this, the CD release party was bound to be a success. Dahle’s years of experience showed in his performance—excellent vocals, stage presence, and a venue perfectly suited to an intimate album launch. Though there were more guest-list patrons than cover-payers at the Biltmore Thursday night, I’m sure that the entire crowd would have happily paid the ten dollars to celebrate Ryan Dahle’s first solo release.
Check out UQ Events for tickets to concerts, theatrical events and more!
by Laura Melvin
Rod Stewart concert tickets seemed to be a popular gift this Mother’s Day as thousands of moms and their sons, daughters, husbands, and partners piled into GM Place Saturday night. Indeed, a good portion of the audience was awkward teens and uncomfortable hubbies trailing behind their mothers and wives as they pushed their way through the crowds to their seats. You could spot them a mile away: a woman with her shoulders squared and a teen or husband behind her, holding her hand, with eyes down. Teens and hubbies may have seemed embarrassed to be there, but once Rod hit the stage they were singing along like the rest of the stadium; everybody knows at least one Rod Stewart song.
Rod was sexy in blue satin when he stepped on stage, much to my surprise. You see, in my head, aging rock stars all resemble Keith Richards: wrinkled and drooping after decades upon decades of drugs, booze and tour bus antics. But classic rockers like Mick Jagger, Sting, and Rod Stewart give a new face to the aging rock star. They are the epitome of health, fitness, and style. They leap around stage for hour and a half sets that would have most 20-something rockers gasping for air. In addition to a few songs off of his new cover album due in around Christmas, Rod rocked through some of his greatest hits, paying respect to the songs that made him famous, and finishing the show with his 1971 fame-starter “Maggie-May”, my favourite Rod Stewart song.
Like all classic rockers, Rod goes all out for his shows: big screen complete with graphics, full back-up band including an incredible saxophonist, violinist and two drummers, three back-up singers (who were just fabulous by the way), and an all-white stage setup. Add on three costume changes and you’ve got one amazing show. But, I have to say that my favourite part of the show was the audience. If you want to see crazy female fans, you go to a Rod Stewart show. With more than three-quarters of the crowd being female and over forty, I saw things typical of ecstatic teenage girls. The woman sitting next to me was just a hoot; when Rod began his song “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”, she literally squealed, clasped her hands together, and sang at the top of her lungs. Throughout the song, I heard her sigh and stare lovingly at Rod like a schoolgirl stares at the poster on her wall of her favourite boy band. When Rod kicked his signature soccer balls into the crowd, there was a veritable battle for them. I saw hair pulling, elbows flying, and women diving over chairs to catch one. I’ve been to some out of control shows in my day, but I’ve never seen a full out brawl just for a soccer ball!
Visit UQ Events for more exciting local events!
by Bob Pember
Saturday night was the finale of yet another instalment of the HSBC Celebration of Light—an annual fireworks display that effectively shuts the city down while competing countries vie for gasps and kinked necks from the thousands watching on the beaches. Despite the congestion in the buses and parking lots and the high-alert presence of police officers, the shows did not disappoint this year: Vancouver enjoyed the distracting explosions even after sweating all day in the record breaking heat.
The Canadian team started off the contest on the 22nd with an attempt to match their coloured rockets to the music from The Wizard of Oz. Though the hometown crowd was pleased by their country’s contribution, they were soon blown away by the UK and China’s efforts the next week. Personally, I thought that the UK’s display was the best fireworks show I’d ever seen, but that lasted for three days and ended once I saw the precision and style of China’s execution. The Chinese gave the crowd a treat as they managed to expertly pair captivating lights with modern instrumentals. Saturday’s fireworks complemented their music better than any of the other team’s endeavours: the display was an expression of the music instead of simply blowing off red, green and white flares on top of a classical piece.
Those who have lived in the city during the fireworks over the last nineteen years know that a large portion of the citizens of Vancouver get somewhat crazed once the fire in the sky starts. Since back when it was Benson & Hedges Symphony of Fire the event was effectively a yearly drinking binge for those in Vancouver’s late-teen, early-adult demographic, and an opportunity for summertime lunacy once the shows end and everyone finds themselves in a drunken exodus from downtown and Kits beach. That’s why if you made it down to Kits you saw more police officers than glow sticks. The ever-blunt vigilance of Vancouver’s robotic police force was not about to let one square metre go without patrol and an accusing blank glare. Event the transit security brought out the reserves and delayed each B Line bus at each stop while they grimaced at the passengers and scoured for signs of discreet drinking and any potential tomfoolery brooding.
This year did prove to be one of the tamest and pacifistic shows, but I think we could handle a little bit less authority leering over all of our shoulders—especially when you’re already crammed into an over-stuffed bus in the middle of the hottest summer we’ve ever seen. As much as I love being shoved out of the way by someone in a faux-cop uniform just so they can see if it’s actually water in the teenager’s Dasani bottle, I’d rather run the risk that the kid might be drinking and have us all get to the beach with as little of other people’s sweat on our clothes as possible.
But I suppose the policing isn’t about to go anywhere, especially now that they’re seeing results in their battle against hooliganism, so next year I’ll have to drink my beer out of a coffee mug again and just enjoy the rocket’s red glare.
Head to UQ Events for listings of great shows like Vancouver’s Celebration of Light.
by Laura Melvin
It’s been a decade since three naked guys ran across our TV sets committing random acts of deviant behaviour, causing us to wonder how old they were. For their breakthrough album, Enema of the State (preceded by the under-the-radar Dude Ranch, which did produce the hit “Dammit”), Mark, Tom and Travis of Blink 182 sang about aliens, sex, and a guy named Gary with an intestinal disease. This led to a cascade of hilariously inappropriate and entertaining stage shows that made crowds roar with laughter the world over.
Do you remember when they were funny? I know the memory is fuzzy now, but for a while they were the funniest band in the world. But, unfortunately, they decided to grow up and get married and have kids, which inevitably turned them into mushy, love song writing knobs (ie: the abysmal “I Miss You” off 2003’s self-titled disappointment).
Blink did try to be deep and meaningful early on with “Adam’s Song” on Enema of the State and “Stay Together for the Kids” on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. Back then, they were smart enough to compliment these sappy songs with ridiculous song titles like “Dysentery Gary” and upbeat head-bobbing tunes like “The Rock Show” so that we didn’t burn them at the stake for trying to make us think about difficult issues. Thinking was not what the original Blink 182 was about! No wonder they went on hiatus to explore different avenues, however unsuccessful (*cough Tom’s band Angels & Airwaves). Their newfound maturity didn’t fit the image fans had of Blink 182 as a raunchy, foul-mouthed band of loveable delinquents.
So why am I excited for the upcoming Blink 182 show? Why bother, you may ask? Because the memories I have of early Blink 182 shows and listening to Enema of the State are some of the best concert memories I’ve ever had. I am so excited to sing along to “What’s My Age Again?” and “Dammit” with the band that I’ll endure the agony of listening to whatever crap they play off 2003’s Blink 182. My fingers are crossed that the show will more closely resemble The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show: The Enema Strikes Back than the funeral that was the Angels & Airwaves concert I accidentally went to last time they were in town. I realize that the band is seriously old now (in rock star years anyway), and that they have wives, and kids. But shouldn’t those kids get to see the reason their fathers became famous in the first place, swearing, nudity, and all?
For those of you debating whether or not to attend the show, go back and listen to your early Blink albums to get a feel for what Blink 182 was before the crap invaded. They were never meant to be great songwriters or great musicians; they were meant to have fun! To everyone who’s ever been to a Blink 182 show, or listened to The Enema Strikes Back: BOOBIES!!!! See you at the show.