It started out as a small festival with big ambitions, and has grown into a $1.8-million event that draws artists from around the globe – as well as tens of thousands of Vancouverites.
Now heading into its second week, this year’s PuSh Festival has already been winning rave reviews and sellout crowds – but there is still plenty more to come. So what to see?
Artistic director Norman Armour’s top picks include L.A. Party, a live video mix that tells the story of a fanatical vegan who falls off the wagon, and An Evening with William Shatner Asterisk, a work that mashes up thousands of video snippets of Captain Kirk and morphs them into an essay about art and technology. New York theatre creator Phil Soltanoff calls them “video puppetry.”
The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi takes Larry Tremblay’s 1995 one-man play and, using inventive direction and set design, divides the consciousness of the elderly man – whose tales of the past become increasingly suspect – into five distinct characters.
Seeds, Annabel Soutar’s hard-hitting work that explores the link between our food supply and massive biotech companies such as Monsanto, features Canadian theatre icon Eric Peterson, and is being directed by Chris Abraham.
“I think he is the finest director working in English theatre in this country,” says Mr. Armour of the award-winning Toronto artist. “And unfortunately it’s a subject that has not gone away, and isn’t going away any time soon.”
Other must-sees include the special PuSh edition of the art party Fuse at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Club PuSh, an informal club series that includes everything from a history of Vancouver’s drag scene to a performance by Vancouver’s legendary Eye of Newt Collective that sets live improv music to the Japanese cult classic Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
Further ahead, Mr. Armour highly recommends genre-bending Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq’s Nanook of the North, as well as Usually Beauty Fails, an explosive dance piece by one of Montreal’s hottest choreographers, Frédérick Gravel.
“He performs in the band that’s on stage, and the dancers are remarkable,” says Mr. Armour. “We talk about elite bobsledders and figure skaters. But this is an elite contemporary dance company. It’s going to be a killer night.”
Now celebrating PuSh’s 10th anniversary, Mr. Armour is thrilled by the success of the festival, which began as a small upstart meant to connect groundbreaking international and local artists with Vancouver audiences, and has since become one of the most anticipated events on the city’s cultural calendar.
“The festival always had at its heart a sense of opening up possibilities,” says Mr. Armour. “But nothing like seeing a good idea turn out to be so good.”