One need only turn on the six o’clock news, open a newspaper or even watch their Facebook feeds for another story of Vancouver’s housing crisis. In his new play, The Concierge of Vancouver, Shaul Ezer takes comedic aim at our city’s skyrocketing real estate prices, and the seemingly out-of-control cost of living in a world-class city.
In this Q&A with playwright Shaul Elzer, we find out more about his new satire, which will see its world premiere later this month.
Q[/dropcap] Why a satire on Vancouver’s housing crisis? Did this come from a personal place for you?
My wife and I moved to Vancouver five years ago. We rent a condo in Coal Harbour. Over time we noticed a large proportion of the condos in the area were unoccupied, but neither for sale or rent. Our concierge knew I am a playwright and challenged me to write a play about a concierge. I was intrigued, so a concierge in a substantially empty neighbourhood was an intriguing combination.
Q[/dropcap] Tell us about the title – what is it’s significance.
I am writing a play about each of the three cities in Canada in which I lived. The first one was The Matchmaker of Montreal, which was produced in Vancouver in 2013. The second is The Concierge of Vancouver. This title is symmetrical to the one of the first play and fits the subject of the concierge in a condo building. Stay tuned for The CEO of Toronto, coming to a theatre near you.
Q[/dropcap] The timing for this could not have been better given the recent provincial tax on foreign buyers & Vancouver’s crackdown on empty homes. Did you anticipate this all coming together at around the time your play would premiere?
In a way, yes. I wrote this play more than two years ago, and it has since been revised many times. I was going to produce it next year, but a few months ago, I realized that the housing issue was going to heat up, so I accelerated the production, and decided to do it this fall. I like to joke that I planned the timing with Premier Clark and Mayor Robertson – she would introduce a tax in August, the Mayor another one in September, and I would open my play in October.
Q[/dropcap] Are politics an important part of what you do as a playwright?
The important part of what I do as a playwright is to depict the local colour of a Canadian city, which includes some of the politics, that is to say, art imitates life. But the way the housing issue is evolving, it seems to be imitating my play. A writer who commented on an earlier draft even suggested I should use the play as a forum to propose detailed policy positions on housing. I think that would be going too far, as a play is not a proper forum to deliberate on new legislation. It is sufficient, I think, for an artist to bring attention to a problem and let the experts and politicians figure out the answer.
Q[/dropcap] What do you want audiences talking about as they leave the theatre?
That we should find a way to create affordable housing without at the same time discouraging foreign investment.
The Concierge of Vancouver plays Studio 1398 (1398 Cartwright St, Granville Island) from October 6-16. Visit http://matchmakerproductions.com for tickets and information.