The Stranger and Hell of A Girl play as part of the 2015 rEvolver Theatre Festival
The Stranger and Hell of A Girl play as part of the 2015 rEvolver Theatre Festival

The rEvolver Theatre Festival has been a part of the Vancouver cultural landscape in some form or another for the past fifteen years. A cross between the Fringe Festival and The Push Festival, while they state they provide an opportunity for emerging artists and companies, there are a number of established actors and directors involved as well. Regardless, it features some very inventive and creative theatre where you often get to experience the birth of great new works.

The Stranger – (Toronto)

This is an immersive experience that accommodates one person at a time. You know you are in for an adventure when you are asked to sign a waiver before you begin.  You are escorted to a street corner and then left alone. So very alone. Every single person who passes, you assume is an actor. Suddenly your phone rings – they told you it might – and a friendly man tells you to walk to the park and chats with you about your day. You arrive at a park and he says he has to go, but someone will come for you.

During the course of the one-hour experience you meet playful strangers, paranoid strangers, frustrated strangers, sullen strangers. Some communicate with you through an iPod and some through notes. You end up in apartments, going for a car ride, and dancing in a park and more.

You are gently challenged, sometimes a little nervous and mostly giddy-excited. The experience is very freeing when you give yourself over it and it inspires you to seek imaginative playful interaction.  Who is your stranger?

I was beaming for hour after the experience.

Hell of a Girl (Vancouver)

Jeff Gladstone is one of the warmest, and open hearted artists in Vancouver. He just makes you smile. He has taken the story of Eurydice and Orpheus and adapted it to a folk rock concept album.  With the help of his brother Ryan as director, he has adapted it to the stage with a killer cast.

The electric John Murphy plays Hades, the dynamic Emma Slipp plays Eurydice, and the powerful Tallualh Winkleman captures Persephone. Each features a full throated rock n’ roll voice.

The show contains some brilliant folk rock songs and some very artistic flourishes like a descent into Hell with the clever usage of flashlights. The Greek chorus of various dead people provides weird and wonderful laughs.

This show will go through re-writes after this incarnation and it should. Currently in-between the great songs and great acting the story slackens, and since we don’t really know Eurydice and Orpheus we don’t fully invest in their plight.

There is a lot of great stuff here so keep your eyes open for when it comes back and hopefully they will have the same cast.

Balls (Vancouver)

Seven actors decide to create a show about taking risks. Off the top a naked Cory Haas tells us there will be no plot, no story, and there will be a timer to make sure they come in on time since the show is sort of free form.

Three cast members are the focus for this particular edition, with others in the cast having ben featured in a previous show. One is made to answer questions about his friends, and on the big screen behind we see his Facebook has been hacked and his answers are placed in his status updates. Another actor has to create a stand-up routine in twenty minutes, and the third is forced to act out a scene from a play she recently acted in.

There are other stunts, but the show wavers between actors showing they have ‘balls’ and humiliation. That feels icky. Also taking a phone from an audience member and ordering a pizza and then turning and asking the audience to pay for it is just bratty, and not insightful.

In one scene they calculate how much money they are making on the show – a move that invites vague curiosity from the audience. Remember there is very little sympathy for a complaining actor – other artists already know how tough the career is so you are preaching to the choir and non-artists who work the more traditional 9 – 5 job don’t get why you would choose a career that you seem so unhappy with.

The end result are some very personable and charming actors, but they likely got more out of the experience than we did.

The 2015 rEvolver Theatre Festival continues until May 31. Visit http://upintheairtheatre.com for tickets and more information.