Not a week went by in 2017 without something wonderful happening on a Vancouver stage. From the Goldcorp Stage to The Fishbowl, under the Bard tents or under the Cambie Bridge, there was seemingly a show on for every taste.
With that, here are some productions – not necessarily the best – that creatively pushed the boundaries of live theatre this year.
• With the housing crisis in Vancouver on everyone’s lips, getting a ticket to Crawlspace was tough. Writer/performer Karen Hines had recently bought a Toronto “coach house” with a “crawl space.” Read: poorly converted garage and inaccessible dumpsite where something was dying. And stinking. The show didn’t stink. It was terrific.
• am a is a strange title but the show, created and performed by Mindy Parfitt and Amber Funk Barton, wasn’t. “When is it too late to change?” was the question these two mid-career theatre artists asked. It was a treat for the eyes as well as the soul.
• March went out like a lion with The Train Driver, featuring Pasi Clayton Gunguwo and Paul Herbert. Adam Henderson directed Athol Fugard’s searing post-apartheid play on John Taylor’s dry, dusty set.
• You might not have liked La Merda but if you saw it, I bet it’s still in your head. Performed naked by Silvia Gallerano, la merda translates as “the shit.” When the curtain fell, you felt you’d been skinned alive.
• For "spacey” productions, nothing beat out Cinerama, performed in the waters off Spanish Banks. We got wet and it was bizarre but very very Zen. You might say it was a contemplation on how our experiences are framed by others. Or maybe it was just about putting a bunch of people in chairs out on a sandbar with the tide rising. Either way, I liked it.
• And I loved the way director Scott Bellis tweaked the conclusion of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at Bard on the Beach. Dammit, one of those gents was a would-be rapist and it’s taken four hundred years for someone to take the mickey out of Shakespeare. Hey nonny nonny.
• From under the Bard tents to under the Cambie Bridge we saw Uninterrupted, filmmaker Nettie Wild’s spectacular cinematic installation projected on the underside of the bridge. We looked up to see salmon returning to their spawning grounds in B.C. creeks. It was free and it was beautiful.
• Tetsuro Shigematsu took us through technology wonderland with 1 Hour Photo. A teeny tiny table and two teeny tiny chairs, when projected, became a kitchen table over which Shigematsu interviewed Mas Yamamoto, a Japanese man forcibly relocated from the Lower Mainland during WWII.
• Some Japanese and Japanese-Canadians were held on the PNE grounds in buildings that had been used as stables for racehorses. Re-enacted in the same buildings with the smell of hay and manure, The Japanese Problem really brought that horrific story home.
• In The Goblin Market, a homoerotic poem by Christine Rossetti, the lush language found its parallel in bodies beautiful. Part poem, part music and part circus, it was decidedly strange but strangely compelling. Underneath it all, it was a cautionary tale, written by a devoutly Christian woman about the temptations of the flesh. But so sexy.
• Who knew what was going on in Templeton Secondary School? Theatre, and lots of it, apparently. Spearheaded by those Shameless Hussies (Deb Pickman and Renée Iaci), Girls Like That was about bullying, with an all-girl cast. This show should be seen all over the country.
• Okay, so Titus Bouffonius was bloody and gory but it was well done. Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is straight up violent and you don’t hear people dissing the Bard because of it. Maybe we shouldn’t have laughed at the bouffon treatment but we did.
• And, finally, Onegin. It’s back. It’s wonderful and so very Russian. It runs until New Year’s Eve. Buy a ticket if you still can.
And that was 2017. More riches to come.