I’m often bemused when I hear whinging about Vancouver’s cultural scene. Apparently, according to some poor pretentious souls, we are far too “new” a city to appreciate cultural depth.
We host highly acclaimed theatre and music festivals, have held our own with symphony, opera, and dance, and our underground scene has been the breeding grounds for many now-successful artistic notables. With an art gallery on every corner, we are hardly deprived.
Just this week, I’ve indulged in three thespian endeavours. All were rather cheeky, both literally and figuratively.
I began with the burlesque production of Vixens of Wonderland. With the divine Symone Says (nationally-favoured drag performer) as my charming escort, I was sure I was in for quite the treat. To those unfamiliar with burlesque, this style of performance puts more emphasis on the tease, rather than the strip. Which ran from August 15 through 29 at Performance Works, it was a cabaret style evening, chronicling the adventures of Alice in a more… risqué… Wonderland. When I say evening, it was rather a commitment, running over 2 hours in duration. Also, I always find burlesque to be rather white-washed, and this proved true yet again. It would be nice to celebrate our diversity in all tints of birthday suits, which was noted by my companion for the evening.
Despite needing a bit of… condensing… and colour…it was a charming presentation with a very enthusiastic cast. For those not familiar with Performance Works, it offers a permanent performance and rehearsal space to the theatre community, located ideally in Granville Island. It is a rather versatile space, at extremely reasonable rates. This particular performance drew our attention because of their success on the Main Stage at Pride 2014, and it was certainly one of the better burlesque performances I’ve experienced in Vancouver.
Next on the agenda was Midsummer Night’s Dream at Bard on the Beach. For those who haven’t yet been to this Shakespearean Festival, WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU WAITING FOR!
Oh yes, you find the Bard a bit dry.
You must not have read any. Or experienced it quite like it is presented at the beach in Vanier Park. The cozy compound of red and white tents add to the atmosphere, making for a beautiful afternoon at the matinee or perhaps a romantic date at an evening performance. The stage itself opens to a view of the ocean, nothing could be a lovelier backdrop. The performers are brilliantly cast, the costumes with their modern twists rather funky and fashionable (I totally covet Helena’s jacket), the sets simple but effective.
I’ve always been fond of Midsummer Night’s Dream so when my friend Shannon mentioned it, I pounced on the opportunity. It was certainly as cheeky as I remembered, perhaps as much so as Vixens of Wonderland! Between do-wopping sprites, getting flashed by a Scot who was… ahem… true to character, charming interactions with the audience that didn’t seem rehearsed, acknowledging the delight of a little girl who was mirthful at some of the naughtier jokes (yes, if a child can follow Shakespeare, what is your excuse?), and a Puck whose shenanigans had us all riveted, I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. Well perhaps if I brought a blanket, it was a tad chilly. So there you have it… my only advice for this performance is to dress warmly and indulge in a glass of wine or some hot chocolate to keep you focused on the awesome unfolding before you on stage.
Last on the agenda for this week is Lascivious Something at the Cultch for the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Starring my lovely friend Lori Watt, my theatrical connoisseur Jonas and I decided we MUST attend.
Let me preface this by saying this is the second time I’ve visited the Cultch. Let me also differentiate my experience with the venue with my thoughts regarding Lascivious Something. Beginning with my thoughts on the venue…perhaps this was opening day, however although nerves may be strained, manners should not suffer. My first time last year at the Cultch was not an opening day, and I still had the same review. Insanely scattered, disorganized, and rather testy.
Putting that aside, we were given an impassioned performance by the ladies. Baring all, they were convincing in their characters, delivering their lines with zest and devotion to the role. It was a curious story they wove, favouring a rewind/flashback technique to tell their tale. I’m not sold on the retelling, much like flipping back in a choose-your-own-adventure novel perhaps it felt a bit like cheating, although it did certainly do its fair share to add to the gasps of the audience. The last character was sadly lacking the charisma of the ladies, rather static and rehearsed in tenor, even more so in contrast. The story brought in aspects of many cultural Greek stereotypes, somewhat controversial, and it was interesting to see how the playwright dealt with these topics.
The Fringe Festival continues, as does Bard on the Beach, so you can dabble in all these festivals have to offer. At the very least, it shall spice up your conversation beyond talk of our beautiful weather and your new yoga mat.
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