Nestruck on Theatre
 

January 20, 2022

 
As theatre companies across North America cancel their in-person programming in the face of the Omicron variant, Vancouver’s PuSh festival has decided to, well, push through. This week, we feature three shows at the B.C. theatre fest that we hope west coast residents will have the chance to see. For more background on PuSh’s decision to forge ahead, Marsha Lederman spoke to the festival’s organizers – as well as performers and organizers of Calgary’s High Performance Rodeo, which cancelled its festival earlier this month

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  Nestruck on Theatre: Three to see at the PuSh Festival in Vancouver
 

J. Kelly Nestruck

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Aalaapi is a trilingual collective creation about the North whose team of collaborators hail from Montreal and Nunavik. Handout
 
Vancouver’s PuSh Festival has decided to push forward with live, in-person programming this month despite Omicron, as B.C.-based arts reporter Marsha Lederman chronicled in the weekend Globe and Mail.
 
In that, the international theatre and performance festival – set to begin on Thursday and run to Feb. 6 – is an outlier on the circuit of such events that normally take place in North America in January and February.
 
The High Performance Rodeo in Calgary threw in the towel last week, for instance, while Under the Radar and a couple of other festivals of the avant-garde in New York City cancelled in-person programming this month.
 
Live theatre is in tough to keep going in any form with COVID-19 case counts where they are right now – and it’s a particular gamble to put together a lineup of short runs of shows that have to travel in from across the country and around the world.
 
This was driven home to me when I attempted to put together a list of PuSh picks in consultation with Marsha for the newsletter. Between drafts, I had to remove one recommendation because of coronavirus cancellation.
 
 
 
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Our Fathers, Son, Lovers and Little Brothers, a solo show co-produced by Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre and Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop that seemed like a sure bet, was to run in Vancouver from Jan. 20 to 22. On Monday, however, it was taken off the schedule owing to a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the company.
 
Here are three other PuSh shows still programmed that I hope B.C. theatregoers will have a chance to see.
 
  • Aalaapi is a trilingual collective creation about the North (and clichéd and preconceived ideas about it) whose team of collaborators hail from Montreal and Nunavik. I haven’t seen the show, but the published text was nominated for a Governor General’s Award in 2020; I was intrigued by a recent conversation Québecoise co-creator Laurence Dauphinais had with the English playwright Simon Stephens about the show on a favourite podcast of mine. (Jan. 29 – Feb. 2, Waterfront Theatre; streaming option available, too.)
  • How to Fail as a Popstar, a solo piece by writer Vivek Shraya about her real-life attempts to make it in the music business in her teens and 20s, will surely have extra resonance at this point in the pandemic when a career in the arts has become more tenuous than ever. I reviewed the show when it had a run at Canadian Stage in February, 2020 – and Shraya and director Brendan Healy have no doubt continued to polish it since then. (Feb. 1 to 2; Waterfront Theatre)
  • William Shakespeare’s As You Like It: A Radical Retelling, by the puckish playwright and performer Cliff Cardinal, is likely to create as much conversation in Vancouver as it did in Toronto, if it gets to go ahead. This is a show that it’s best to know as little as possible about going in – but if you’re not the kind of person who likes to be surprised, you can spoil it for yourself by reading what I wrote about it as part of our year-end package on the Canadian Arts Heroes of 2021. (Feb. 4 to 6; York Theatre)
 
While this year’s High Performance Rodeo is not happening in Calgary, that does not mean that theatre is shut down entirely in Alberta.
 
Shadow Theatre in Edmonton is planning its long-awaited return to live performance at the Varscona Theatre this week with The Mountaintop, American playwright Katori Hall’s celebrated two-hander about Martin Luther King Jr. (January 19 to Feb. 6). Ray Strachan and Patricia Cerra star.
 
Also in the City of Champions, Grindstone Theatre’s Jason Kenney’s Hot Boy Summer just keeps on chugging along against all odds. The satirical musical is now in its “fourth wave” of performances, on stage at the Orange Hub through to the end of January.
 
Last weekend, to mark Molière 400th birthday, I wrote about the importance of the French playwright’s works to the history of the Stratford Festival – and bemoaned how rare English-language Canadian adaptations of his plays have been.
 
Commenters were quick to ask why I ignored Andy Jones’s popular adaptation of Tartuffe that originated at New World Theatre Project in Cupids, Nfld. – and which later toured around the province. I suppose I could argue that I didn’t mention it because it isn’t set in Canada, but in pre-Confederation Newfoundland ... but, in truth, it just slipped my mind. Here’s my review of the excellent adaptation from when it played the National Arts Centre in 2013.
 
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Jesse Winter/The Globe and Mail

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Elise Bouvier/Courtesy of manufacturer

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Nestruck on Theatre, written by Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck, is delivered on Tuesdays.

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