Places Please – November 2018

As we put away our sexy Halloween costumes and shift our attention to the inevitable cold embrace of winter, let’s talk theatre. Sure, that older stuff has its time and place. Arthur Miller’s Crucible? We’ll take it. Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya? Love it. The Bard himself, Willy Shakes? *Kisses fingertips* Classic.

But there’s another reason to go to see live theatre. Below is a selection of local playwrights and companies doing some awesome stuff this month, from creatively incorporating multimedia in new ways, to gender bending older stories. Avengers 27 (or whatever’s playing now — it’s hard to keep track) can wait. It’s time for something different.

Monsterkill 5: Remonsterkilled (Or, We Were the Empty Set)
Havana Theatre, Oct. 30-Nov. 3
With the world so divided right now, it’s nice to take a break from people bashing each other up to watch other people bash each other up. In an homage to the whack-em-up video game à la Super Smash Bros., we follow the exploits of a group of avatars in a video game where they are manipulated into senselessly fighting each other by a couple of unseen voices. This isn’t just Ready Player One nostalgic whimsy, though. In his play, writer-director Matt Horrigan alludes to the uglier sides of video gaming, specifically the excessive violence of “militainment,” and the right-wing subcultures that are thriving online.

Ultimately, the players in Monsterkill

“don’t struggle to escape the game,” Horrigan says. “They struggle with why they’re there.” Eventually, they reach a point where “they’re no longer able to answer that question.”

Empire of the Son
Gateway Theatre Nov. 8-17
When Tetsuro Shigematsu first debuted his one-man show at The Cultch a few years back, Vancouver took notice. In it, he fiddled with toys, played recorded conversations between himself and his father, and employed the use of a camera to paint an intimate portrait of his father, who had only just passed before the first performance. Colin Thomas, still at The Georgia Straight, called it “exquisite.”

Since then, Shigematsu has taken Empire all over Canada. Time, nevertheless, has not made the piece stale. “Because the text is so much in my body, I’m at a point where when I’m onstage, if I take a breath, I genuinely do not know what I’m about to say until I begin to talk,” he says. “It’s as if the lines of the play are occurring to me for the first time. Sometimes this show just hits me and I’m knocked over.”

See this one while you can, folks. Once it wraps here, Shigematsu takes “=Empire abroad. It ain’t coming back.

The Enemy


Photo by Pedro Meza

Firehall Arts Centre, Nov. 10-Dec. 1
In case you didn’t hear, the United Nations came out with a climate report in October essentially saying that humanity is screwed. (We’re not panicking, you’re panicking.)
As if on cue, Firehall is mounting a production of Henrik Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” this month. The play, written over one hundred years ago, depicts the timeless-yet-quite-timely battle between the environment and the economy. In it, we follow Dr. Stockmann, a scientist who raises concerns over the safety of a community’s water. The townspeople, whose income is dependent upon the local baths, don’t take too kindly to their livelihoods being threatened. For this contemporary take, Firehall has added another dimension by making Dr. Stockmann a woman. We can only assume that her gender will make everything easier for her, right?

If any of this is giving you existential angst, there’s always the option to binge watch cat videos. Honestly, we might just go do that.