Best of Vancouver arts 2018: looking back at our most memorable reviews on-stage and in galleries

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      From conventional stages to industrial spaces to historical hotel room galleries, our writers hit every imaginable venue for theatre, dance, visual art, and everything in between in 2018. Here are some of their most memorable moments.


      AS YOU LIKE IT (Bard on the Beach) "In a risky move that turns out to be a stroke of genius, Cloran jettisons half (half!) of the Bard’s text in favour of Beatles songs….I had so much fun at As You Like It that I’ll go see it again—if there are any tickets to be had. This one’s a hit."


      FUN HOME (Arts Club Theatre) "Bechdel’s book is considered a masterpiece of the form, and her precision and wry humour have translated wonderfully to the musical stage….Fun Home is an unconventional musical. It’s character-driven, with a plot that spirals in on itself. It’s a tragicomedy, balancing the Bechdels' ennui with a droll wit. It’s a Canadian premiere of a show that only launched on Broadway in 2015. It’s also the first mainstream musical about a young lesbian. Refreshingly, all of that adds up to a very modern show."


      The Wolves scored Pacific Theatre a big hit this year.
      Ron Reed

      THE WOLVES (With a Spoon Theatre, in association with Rumble Theatre, at Pacific Theatre.) "I love, love, love The Wolves. Like the best sports matches, this play is packed with virtuosity and surprises. American playwright Sarah DeLappe’s debut script, a 2017 Pulitzer Prize nominee, follows the members of a girls’ indoor-soccer team. The play announces its terrific theatricality right off the top, as the team members sit in two circles, going through a series of warm-ups."


      BALLET BC: ENEMY IN THE FIGURE, PROGRAM 3 "Enemy in the Figure is unflinchingly challenging, with its speed-of-sound motion, its shifting set pieces, and its gruelling demands for technique. It’s a puzzle box of ever-moving parts, dancers jumping to avoid a thick rope that ripples across the stage or catching the glare of a rolling floodlight. They throw dynamic shadows against a wavy central wall, push up against it, dance behind it with only their limbs showing, and sometimes disappear into the darkness. The intricately designed frenzy has the mystery and thrill of film noir, abstracted into conceptual art."



      Gravity & Other Myths' Backbone melded acrobatics and art.
      Shane Reid


      BACKBONE (Gravity & Other Myths, presented by the Cultch at Vancouver Playhouse) "What these 10 acrobats can do with their bodies will make you gasp over and over again….The props are relatively simple—poles, rocks, buckets of sand—but they’re used inventively, and the sheer number of them makes for many elegant stage pictures."


      KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: COLLECTED WORKS  (Rennie Museum) "One of an impressive range of works on view at the Rennie Museum, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and mixed-media installations, Heirlooms and Accessories is both deeply reasoned and deeply troubling. It is constructed around an infamous and widely circulated photograph of the lynching of two black men in Marion, Indiana, in 1930. The focus here, however, is intentionally shifted away from the brutalized black bodies (the photo reproduced in each panel of the triptych has been “ghosted” so that it serves as a faint backdrop) to three white women, of different generations, who are part of the mob at the crime scene. Not that they exhibit any fear of being identified as accessories. The face of each woman, gazing with appalling indifference at the camera, has been isolated and foregrounded within the framing image of a locket. And each locket is attached to a chain that echoes the ropes around the necks of the two hanged men…Together they create an experience for the viewer that is rich, deep, and thought-provoking."


      SHEN WEI DANCE: FOLDING (Vancouver International Dance Festival) "The Chinese-American artist has fully tapped the unconscious here, conjuring a surreal world where impossible things happen in front of your eyes. The dancers wear elongated headpieces that extend their noggins into a look that falls somewhere between Coneheads and Alien Nation....Bodies appear to float across the stage in their voluminous red silk skirts. Two torsos sprout out of a single black fabric, one stretching outward as if her body was magically expanding across the stage. And in the final moments—one whose trick is never revealed—a group of figures seem to ascend in the darkness and out of sight at the back of the stage. The trompe l’oeil caused gasps amid the mesmerized opening-night audience."


      Patricia Piccinini's thought-provoking A Young Family in the immersive Curious Imaginings at the Patricia Hotel.


      CURIOUS IMAGININGS (Vancouver Biennale, at the Patricia Hotel) "She’s a mutant and a mistake. She is an aberration—a creature who falls somewhere between orangutan and human, a misguided DNA experiment. And yet you can see the beauty in her. You’re drawn to this orange-haired creature, with her gentle brown eyes. There is love in the way she reaches one pink-skinned, opposable-thumbed hand up to a pale human baby climbing up the back of her shoulder, the other clutching an apelike infant to her chest. The sculpture is called Kindred, one of the hyperreal creations Patricia Piccinini is bringing here as part of the upcoming exhibit Curious Imaginings, spread over 18 rooms of the Patricia Hotel."


      THE OVERCOAT—A MUSICAL TAILORING (Vancouver Opera Festival) "Drawing from the original, movement director Gorling turns opera into a highly choreographed, fast-moving tableau, pushing the physical bounds of her performers. And the new show takes the form out of the realm of traditional comedy or tragedy, Panych’s playful libretto embracing a dark mix of absurdism and allegory, with an acid-sharpened edge."


      Eternal Tides cast a spell at the PuSh fest.


      ETERNAL TIDES (PuSh International Performing Arts Festival) "Taiwan’s Legend Lin Dance Theatre asked you to let go of all your earthly concerns and submit to the striking, often slow-moving parade of painterly images that played across the vast Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage....As filmy white silk panels rose from the stark set, they revealed a near-naked, powdered figure. She began whirling on the stage for a seeming eternity, her knee-length black hair flying around like she was a human tornado."


      CHOTTO DESH (DanceHouse) "A meld of visual magic and cross-cultural storytelling, Chotto Desh makes a fantastic introduction to dance for kids. For adults, it’s a stunning physical feat—a seamless mashup of different forms."


      MORTIFIED (Studio 58) "Studio 58 brings her coming-of-age story to life with strong lead performances and a production that's as metaphorically visionary as it is physically charged."


      In Mustard, the strong performances of Heidi Damayo and Andrew McNee are inspired by playwright Kat Sandler’s nuanced way with dialogue.
      Mark Halliday


      MUSTARD (Arts Club) "Playwright Kat Sandler won the 2016 Dora Award for outstanding new play for her jaw-dropping professional debut, Mustard. The Arts Club’s new coproduction with Victoria’s Belfry Theatre makes it easy to understand why….Sandler’s writing is so good and it holds up beautifully to director Stephen Drover’s decision to start big and stay there, every emotion and every confrontation epic and unrelenting."


      TRANVERSE ORIENTATION (Rachel Meyer) "Held in a historic Railtown warehouse at midnight, the Ballet BC alumna’s work took its inspiration from moths in all their fascinating nighttime mystery....Huge props go to lighting designer James Proudfoot, whose menagerie of industrial spotlights and flickering sepia bulbs shape the space, throwing shadows and making you feel, alternately, like you’re watching by moonlight or entering an F.W. Murnau film set."


      TAKASHI MURAKAMI: OCTOPUS EATS ITS OWN LEG (Vancouver Art Gallery) "Dressed in a glittering Technicolour suit splashed with swirling illustrations of tentacles, a plush hat fashioned in the shape of a cutesy octopus, and a pair of Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Jordan 1 high-tops recently gifted to him by the Off White founder, Murakami appeared with VAG senior curator Bruce Grenville during an exhibition preview this morning."


      Robert Moloney and Kayla Deorksen spoke directly to the #MeToo era in C'Mon Angie.
      bold rezolution


      C'MON ANGIE (Touchstone Theatre, in association with the Firehall Arts Centre) "C’mon, Angie! is visceral, important, life-changing theatre, and could play a critical role in helping advance the cultural conversation around sexual assault, consent, and coercion."

      EAST VAN PANTO (Theatre Replacement) "I can’t say it better than Theatre Replacement puts it in the program note: there’s no place like Panto. This sixth installment, based on The Wizard of Oz, might be the best yet."


      MARKING THE INFINITE (Museum of Anthropology) "Subtitled 'Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia', this glorious exhibition recently landed at the Museum of Anthropology after travelling to five galleries in the United States. Drawn from the collection of Miami-based Debra and Dennis Scholl and curated by art historian Henry F. Skerritt, it includes some 61 works by nine women....The show demonstrates an interesting development: much contemporary Aboriginal art production in Australia in the past three decades has been powered by women."