Le NoShow Vancouver: Art Versus Entertainment (Review)

Photo Credit: Gaëtan Nerincx

There are so many amazing attractions in Vancouver, and you have a limited amount of time and resources to do them all. How do you choose? How do you prioritize them? Should art be free?

A playful and interactive show is currently running that will get you thinking about these questions, and then reaching for your phone to text your answers.

From now until March 1, 2020, Théâtre la Seizième, in partnership with Radio-Canada, presents Le NoShow Vancouver at Performance Works (1218 Cartwright Street) on Granville Island. Théâtre la Seizième, the city’s primary French language theatre group, mounts Canadian works in their mainstage season that are innovative and culturally rich. Le NoShow Vancouver is accessible and enjoyable for all, with English surtitles used for each performance. The actors also alternate seamlessly between English and French throughout the show, making it a truly bilingual experience.

Overall, the production is immensely entertaining and highly inventive, with incisive things to say about theatre, the state of being an actor, and the spending habits and priorities of its audience. Part of you will be laughing uproariously, while the other might be struck by your privileged position as an audience member.

Photo Credit: Gaëtan Nerincx

The performance aims to blur, if not eliminate the fourth wall of theatre by actively getting the audience involved in the direction of the show.

This unexpected involvement begins when you first arrive, and you are given a sheet of paper. You have the liberty to choose how much to pay for the show, and to do so anonymously. Are you unwilling to invest anything in this performance? Or will you open your wallet and give some of your hard earned dollars in support of the actors on stage.

And even more difficult dilemmas ensue. Is this show equivalent in value to various other competing entertainment and attractions in the city? A visit to the newly re-opened Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish? Concert tickets at Rogers Arena? A visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the Cindy Sherman exhibition? If not, why does one work of art or one form of entertainment have less or more value than another? And what is the danger of using money as a method for determining worth?

The show opens with seven actors (Chris Francisque, Siona Gareau-Brennan, Cory Haas, Emilie Leclerc, Nathan Metral, Frédérique Roussel, and Anaïs West) in panel formation: they are young, energetic, and passionate about their craft. Their talent is also clearly evident on stage, especially challenging in such a fast-paced bilingual show. For them, acting and theatre have inherent value, free from the marketplace. But they also live in Vancouver and need to pay their rent, childcare, and other mounting bills. They have stories of dreams, hardship, and sacrifice that will pull at your heartstrings as well as your disposable income.

Photo Credit: Gaëtan Nerincx

They’re no longer in an era of rich patrons who will support them, but now at the mercy of government grants and subsidies, donations from corporations and private individuals, and ticket sales from audiences like you. And profit margins are almost non-existent.

You as audience members are made to feel your power in your purchasing decisions. They are at your mercy, in a Survivor-esque scenario. The whole situation is ludicrous, yet darkly serious. The show will draw a direct link between your choices and the fate of these young actors. You will be polled, so take out your cell phones, think carefully, and then text your response. Are you willing to justify and be accountable for your decisions? Will you throw in more money if ticket sales are inadequate?

To give more details about Le NoShow would ruin its delightfully madcap surprises. What you can expect is a production that will invite you to judge the actors’ decisions to pursue such a non-lucrative career (cell phones are used throughout the performance so keep them handy). You will be witness to their vulnerable personal histories and both the joys and devastating frustrations and humiliations of being a struggling actor. Eventually though, the spotlight will turn on you, and you will be forced to justify your own choices in life.

The ultimate result is an infectious melange of zany humour, punctuated by moments of intense drama and introspection. You’ll leave the show with your belly aching, your faith in theatre restoredand your view of marshmallows completely altered.

This highly interactive and provocative show was initially created in 2013 for the Carrefour international de théâtre in Québec City and won the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec for “Play of the Year” (2015) and “Best International Tour” (2016). It has toured all around Europe to great success and acclaim, even appearing in the Festival Actoral in Marseille.

This version was adapted by Hubert Lemire and François Bernier to speak to its local Vancouver context (original by Alexandre Fecteau), and is directed by Hubert Lemire.

More info and tickets can be found on-line.

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