Vancouver’s Annual Performing Arts Festival 2012 Stuns with Spectacular and Brave Offerings
By: Prachi Kamble, Staff Writer
The Push Festival has been warming the hearts of Vancouver’s theatregoers since 2003. The festival returned to the city on the 17th of January this year, and continued its run into the first week of February, concluding on the 4th. This year the lineup boasts of international productions of experimental plays from Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Lebanon, the United States and Canada. With themes ranging from aboriginal social issues, immigration, corporate lifestyles to the dilemmas of the technological age, the festival scintillates with contemporary relevance. Theatrical styles varying from dance to pantomime to visual slideshows and musical performances add the element of surprise to each show and dare the audience to have a dull moment, if they can.
These productions not only introduce the Vancouver public to social issues that need attention from the mainstream media, they also give the audience a chance to immerse themselves in rich, foreign cultures.
Vancouver is home to artists from all across Canada, but its arts scene took a tremendous blow when the Federal Government’s arts and culture cut in 2008 amounted to a startling $45 million. Since then it has become tremendously difficult for the Canadian arts community to survive, much less profit. Nevertheless, the arts community continues to soldier on since the setback.
The Push Festival, conceived in 2003, has brought experimental art performances into an affordable and quality arena for almost a decade now. Tickets do not exceed more than $35 and students are able to attend shows at a further reduced price. The festival strives to undo the damage done to Canada’s art scene in its own little way, and this year it has succeeded in shining a much needed spotlight on the importance of theatre and the performing arts by housing diverse and path-breaking productions.
Highlights of the festival include Amarillo, a Mexican production that atmospherically recreates the dangerous process of illegal border-crossing by migrant workers into the United States. The play runs for a little less than two hours, and approaches the emotional subject courageously without a plotline or set characters. Amarillo is experimental theatre at its best- theatre of the twenty-first century that demands greater fluidity to make sense of the chaotic twenty-first century world. A post-show interview with the team behind Amarillo clarified the intent of the play to be representative of reality as vividly as possible, instead of merely being a factually accurate story.
Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner and the Farewell Speech is another international production. It transports the audience into the complex setting of corporate Japan. Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca steeps the audience in the richness of Spanish poetry. Vancouver, being the multicultural city that it is, sees itself reflected in the rich multicultural hues of these productions. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot gets the Push treatment with contemporary dialogue, elaborate sets and costumes reminiscent of 18th century feudal Russia. The Pixelated Revolution chronicles the role of technology in the recent Syrian political uprising through an innovative visual medium. For fans of dangerous levels of experimentation, the festival’s sub-segment, Club Push, offers thirteen diverse and courageous shows by homegrown Pacific Northwestern artists and playwrights.
These productions not only introduce the Vancouver public to social issues that need attention from the mainstream media (such as immigration, aboriginal rights, technological alienation), they also give the audience a chance to immerse themselves in rich, foreign cultures.
The Push Festival continues to grow in popularity as it strikes the right balance between providing quality theatre, entertainment value, social awareness and the chance to travel the world from your theatre seat. It brings theatre from all over the world on a unified stage that is primarily interested in breaking barriers of language, genre and form, to produce a brand of theatre that is better able to deconstruct, and consequently better understand, the hyper-evolving society of today. Coming in at a crucial time where the arts are being relegated to the backseat in favor of oil production and war funding, the Push Festival takes the audience from the dry mechanics of everyday life and forces them into moments of creativity, beauty and supreme consciousness.
For more information, check out the Push Festival’s official website. [http://pushfestival.ca]
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