Titus Andronicus at Bard on the Beach last night…

I ran into Brendan after the show last night and here is our dialogue:

- Well?  Did you like it? (this is Brendan)
- It was clear, well paced, handsome and accomplished. (this is me)
- That still doesn’t answer my question – did you like it?
- They almost made me forget I was watching a show in a tent.
- Come on, it’s a simple enough question, did you like it?

I really had to think … did I in fact like...

Titus Andronicus: it's bloody early, Allan Morgan (back), Russell Roberts, photo: David Blue

The tone for Industry of Dreams, the first of two performances in Edge Three, was set with an opening, deliberately amateur film of India’s daily life mixed in with dancing. Traditional theatrical dancing mixed with dervishes fade into scenes of people riding buses. The mood is set: This is India, and India is movement.

Then three dancers make their entrance. The first one – Namchi Bazar, the choreographer of the Industry – wears a dark sari and carries a metal jug atop her head. Two others (Angie Cheng and Sara Wiskar), dressed in red saris, seem to be stoic, veiled...

Namchi Bazar steps carefully through the Industry of Dreams

The Vancouver Art Gallery wants to become known for its collection of photography. This makes sense. Photography is an art-form at which Vancouver has become closely identified, as witnessed by the success of Jeff Wall and Roy Arden.

It’s also fair to say that a strong visual aesthetic is one of the strengths of the performing arts in Vancouver. And it is perhaps a fair criticism that often there seems to be more concern about creating images that will make cool stills over the substance of the work itself.

There were a lot...

aeriosa, cool images; photo by audience member meg walker

Sometimes, when the curtain is drawn, you just know you're in for a good time. When the curtains move aside for Solid State's Take it Back, we are looking at a picture.

Four dancers dressed-up as street kids from the 30's stand in a photographic pose. They stay that way for an uncomfortably long time, until some of the audience decides to take the introductory announcement to "make noise and have fun" to heart. But even through the hoots and hollers, they stand.

Finally, JoDee Allen falls out of step. Her foot, pumping to the music, gets her going. Her...

take it back, Helen Simard; photo: Melissa Gobeil

The Brian Webb Dance Company is 29 years old - experienced, mature, steeped in training and knowledge. And dancing is still Webb's announced and lived passion - he describes himself as a person who "lives for dance" in the performance I'm about to describe. But the full-length piece he created for the 10 for 20 Dancing on the Edge commission was strong in staged story-telling - and strangely weak in choreography.

Nine Points to Navigate, a co-creation with soprano Sheri Somerville, was a presentation of searching, very personal narratives in which Webb and Somerville attempt to understand how their...

Nine Points to Navigate gets emotional

All cultures, it's safe to say, tell ghost stories. Whether Japanese yurei, Irish banshee, or German poltergeist, the restless dead are pitied and feared. Whether haunting locations or specific people, phantoms remind us that repressed history and long-past tragedy may still be echoing around our political, social, or psychic present. They also signify that human beings are fascinated by the things we find the most terrifying.

Butoh - literally: stamping dance - is a performance art that originated in post-WWII Japan. Iconoclastic, meditative, melancholy and grotesque, the first butoh piece premiered in 1959. It explored the then-taboo subject of homosexuality...

The grimacing beauty of a Kokoro Ghost. Photo: Chris Randle|

On top of the Sunrise Market in the midst of Chinatown, 12 Scottish ghosts stand, garbed in white linens and lace, adorned with red and black sashes. In the center stands the musical guard, frocked in kilts and armed with bagpipes and drums.

As the wail of the bagpipes start, the dancers are slowly set in motion. As the performance of Ghosts unfolds, each song brings a new dance, and the cyclical movements of the musicians emphasize the cycles of death to which we bear witness.

I have to admit, I adore the Kokoro Dance troupe. What I love most...

Kokoro's Ghosts follow the bagpipers to the top of Sunrise Market, photo: Chris Randle

Edge Two features three solo performers. First up is Sara Coffin with "I've Been Here Before". The piece is an excellent showcase for this emerging choreographer and performer.

Her work is strongly supported by the sound design of Phil Thomson - a mix of electronic music sounds and ragged breathing. Coffin is a solid mover who creates a daring mood by pushing her body farther and farther resulting in a frantic ending which shows us the limits of human movement.

The second performer is Ron Stewart. We see two excerpts from from WhaT,? - a full-length work choreographed by Jennifer...

Karen Rose featured in Edge 2; photo: Chris Randle

Nine Points to Navigate is a tribute to fathers of the old school variety – the kind that provide for their families, served their country in war, and don’t like queers.

You know, the strong and silent type that have their plaid-upholstered chair in the living room in which they quietly get drunk and fall asleep to distant memories. I’ll leave it to you to insert drool into that image if you so choose.

Drool aside, these are the fathers of Brian Webb and Sheri Somerville, two artists from Edmonton, Alberta. Webb fills many roles in the Edmonton and national...

Nine Points to Navigate, Sheri Sommerville, Brian Webb; Photo: Ellis Brothers

Four young dancers pose with the serious beauty of those who respect the eye of the camera, or in this case the audience. Their costumes are fifties-style street clothes, the two women in dresses and two men in jazz-casual suits, yes, ready for attention, ready to perform. Beat. Still ready. So ready that the tall woman's broad smile (JoDee "Fiesty" Allen's irrepressible grin) begins to freeze.

Though the groovy swing music by Les Mains Librethat opens *Take it Back* is catchy, the four remain perfectly still. Until Allen slides her left leg slowly out of her pose, her body looking...

Solid State polishes the floor between couples dances

I strongly believe that anyone should be able to tell not only their own stories but also those of people from other cultures, countries and backgrounds. That said, I have now seen two productions at two successive Magnetic North Festivals that have been spearheaded by large theatre companies in association with smaller Aboriginal organizations.

The first was the National Arts Centre and urban ink co-production of Copper Thunderbird in 2007 and now the Vancouver Playhouse and Savage Society with Where the Blood Mixes in 2008. Both were written by Aboriginal artists telling Aboriginal stories, but directed by senior theatre artists...

where the blood mixes

Any play in which the lead observes, “As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; / They kill us for their sport” should tear away at a viewer’s comfortable and smug preconceptions. I admit it: I went to Vanier Park to ache and feel King Lear in my guts. But didn’t with This Bard on the Beach presentation.

Since English teachers like myself are fond of reminding their students that Shakespeare’s plays are ‘timeless’, director James Fagan Tait has happily plucked the plot from its historical roots and dropped it into a “not-too-distant future” that smacks of 1980s...

Patti Allan wheels Christopher Gaze, followed by Anderson, Lyndall-Knight, Marr and Wheeler; photo David Blue

Why I don’t like Orphans is a little perplexing and therefore worth pursuing. It is a play for three actors on a single set, making it attractive to budget-conscious producers.

It affords each of the actors ample opportunity to plumb emotional and occasionally comic heights and depths, in fact, it is very much an ‘actor’s play’ that should stand or fall on the merits of the acting. I’m not sure that that is enough. Or perhaps it is the style of the play that falls short – I’m not talking about this production by new company WINK...

orphans, they just need a squeeze on the shoulder

A play that is simply staged with few props, Sour Brides production of So Many Doors begins, well, at the beginning: a giant sepia mobile hangs above the stage while below it the four actors, each with only a chair, start their baby lives to its tinny wind up tune. As the movement work builds through each stage of development, one actor kneels in prayer; all look anxious.

The actors come into their adult form, each bringing their chair downstage. They are two thirty-something Yukon couples in a grief support group for parents whose children have died....

Riding George Clooney

In a Philadelphia apartment strewn with outdated furniture, clothes and debris live Treat (Andrew McNee) and Philip (Michael Rinaldi), brothers orphaned at a young age and left to fend for themselves. Now grown up, Treat, the older and more aggressive of the two, provides for himself and his agoraphobic brother with petty thievery, while the latter indulges in his penchant for tuna, mayonnaise, and Errol Flynn movies.

This arrangement is disrupted with the arrival of Harold (Michael Charrois). At first kidnapped for ransom by Treat, Harold instead becomes the Alpha male of the household, taking on a fatherly role with...

These Orphans are Michael Rinaldi, Andrew McNee, Michael Charrois; Photo: Damon Calderwood

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