Tag Archives: Vancouver

An afternoon at Twelfth Night

Screen-grab from YouTube : Go see it in 3D in Vanier Park!

Screen-grab from YouTube : Go see it in 3D in Vanier Park!

I am often surprised by the things my Weasels enjoy, or think about. Last year, I had trawled through the selection of things to watch while I ironed, and found a brilliant film version of “Twelfth Night” (By Shakespeare, in case you were wondering.) Tiny Weasel, and then Middle Weasel crept in, drawn by the sounds of TV, and both watched the film with apparent interest.

So when it turned out that “Twelfth Night” was one of the plays in this year’s Bard on the Beach, we booked tickets. We would have booked tickets anyway, but there was, at least, a reason for choosing this play over “Hamlet”.

Just like last year, I was tremendously impressed. Firstly, the staging is so simple.

Last year's staging

Last year’s staging

With an entrance from the back of the stage and two side entrances, and all props and set wheeled or carried on by the actors themselves, we moved from Hotel, to beach, to Bath house and on. It sounds simple enough, but I read plays every week that struggle to convincingly produce two or three locations on one stage. Like many playwrights, I prefer to find a single location for my action to simplify staging*. Seeing productions like this makes me feel I am limiting my imagination too much. It’s also the definition of what makes theatre a different experience from film.

This production moves the time period to the 20’s with jazz as a soundtrack and Olivia’s House is presented as a hotel. However these details don’t really matter, as the quality of the acting and the singing soon sweep you away into the story. Like many of Shakespeare’s tales, it’s a little unlikely – twins separated by a storm, the girl dressing as a boy to preserve her safety and falling into the service of local Duke. She is forced to carry his profession of love to Olivia, even as she herself has fallen in love with him. Olivia is too deep in mourning the death of her brother to hear talk of love, until she sees the disguised Viola and falls in love with him/her. It’s the classic love triangle. As a subplot you have the officious Malvolio (here the Hotel Manager) tricked into believing that Olivia is in love with him and desires that he dress in ridiculous stockings and smile more. To add to the confusion, Viola’s brother appears, now her true double since she’s disguised as a boy and willingly consents to marry Olivia, who thinks he’s Viola, whom she calls Cesario… You get the picture.

Tiny Weasel found it hard to stay still, but she wasn’t bored. She watched the whole production and followed the story without a problem. It wasn’t updated language, but the original text, and all three Weasels enjoyed it immensely. I’m really glad we went, and we’ll go back again next year.

*It’s true that a director can make the decision to radically alter the staging, but in Shakespeare’s theatre, all these locations would have been presented in the one area, and the impression of each given more through dialogue and mime than exotic set dressing. The Bard on the Beach production is, therefore, very traditional in nature. I believe the onus is on the playwright to communicate the nature of the intended staging. Whether or not the director takes that intention to heart is out of the writer’s control.

Book Launch: The Great Canadian Adventure

The terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

The terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

It’s been almost exactly a year since I last worked in an office for someone else. In that time I’ve increased the trade through the Lazy Bee Appraisal Service, completed hundreds of play reviews for my publisher and written a handful of new plays and sketches.

Behind it all, I’ve been polishing old blog posts and working with some neat software to repackage that material with some new entries and information to make this book : The Great Canadian Adventure.

The whole family, just before we left the country

The whole family, just before we left the country

This is the true story of our emigration to BC from the UK. Starting the week before we flew out, it tells of our rush to clear the house we’d been living in, the whirlwind tour of family and friends and the first twelve months finding our feet in the Vancouver area.

But it’s not just a memoir – along the way I’ve collected useful links and made note of things I wish I’d known in advance, and laid them out in the book. Thanks to the Amazon Kindle technology, you can read this book on your PC, your smartphone, your iPad…or even your kindle… and follow those links to learn more.

Writing this book took over four years and several thousand pounds – I had to apply for residency in Canada, and move three children and one wife. We had to get new jobs, a new car, a new house and a dog. And dogs aren’t cheap.

Enjoying our new life in BC!

Enjoying our new life in BC!

Officially launching on May 1st, if you’re seeing this blog post it means you’re special enough to warrant a head start on everyone else! Plus, for the first month, I’m lowering the price by fifty percent. Buy now to avoid disappointment!

If true-life stories of emigration, excitement and orthodontics aren’t your cup of tea, then perhaps you’d rather take a look at some of the other ebooks I’ve written in the past:

Troubled Souls : Three short stories told from the male perspective, each dark and a little disturbing.

Coffee Time Tales 1 and 2: Easy reading for coffee time, two collections of five tales with warmth and often, romance.

Sci-Fi Shorts: Four stories of Science Fiction and Fantasy, including “Twist Stiffly and the Hounds of Zenit Emoga”, a golden-age sci-fi romp.

Writing a play for the Amateur Stage: Guidance and advice on writing plays for community theatre groups, written from the perspective of someone with over a decade of experience in the field. (Me.)

If you’ve produced an ebook, or have some other kind of project you’d like to shout about, HOP ON THIS BANDWAGON! I’ll be posting links to this page as I travel the internet, hawking my books, so why not drop a link to YOUR brilliance in the comments section?

Suit up! It’s Vancouver Fan Expo time!

Fan Expo 053

If you’ve read much of this blog, you may know that last year’s Fan Expo was an interesting experience for me and my family, but one we only got to see from the outside. Nonetheless, the parade of costumed characters coming and going was impressive.

This year, to avoid being left out in the cold, we booked our tickets well in advance. Although I’d put together my suit of Mandalorian armour in time for Hallowe’en, it wasn’t quite right, and I stripped it down for a rebuild, which wasn’t done by the time Fan Expo rolled around. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it…

Mando costume

…Not appearing at this year’s Expo…

Eldest Weasel had rallied some friends and was flying the flag for Doctor Who, having transformed herself into River Song and her mates into the Doctor (11th) and TARDIS.

Fan Expo 031That left Mrs Dim and myself to herd the two smaller Weasels into the Fan Expo.

So, you need to arrive early, especially if you’ve booked photo shoots or signings or whatever. We rolled up around eleven and joined the “Saturday only” queue, which was moving along, and a pretty jolly affair. We chatted with the lady in front of us, proudly wearing her Buffy t-shirt because she would be meeting James Marsters shortly.

Fan Expo 022There were plenty of costumes to see in the lineup, but most were in the “Two Day” line, which wasn’t moving as fast as ours. We passed the Bunny-eared Master Chief on the way up Canada Place, and then back down it, and he didn’t seem to have moved at all….

Yes, the ears are funny, but that's an MA5B Assault Rifle on his back....

Yes, the ears are funny, but that’s an MA5B Assault Rifle on his back….

When we got to the door we had to pass an angry woman who’d been waiting a couple of hours with small children, demanding to be let in ahead of the queue because her photo shoot time was coming up. The guy on the door was apologetic but firm, explaining that there were over thirteen thousand people to organise.

We’d planned to make purchases and all kinds of excitement, but the reality was that we goggled. There’s not much opportunity for goggling in the real world these days, but at Fan Expo it was positively encouraged. Everywhere you looked were either amazing displays, like the Lego booth:

WP_002005

Middle Weasel goggles at the Lego Booth.

Or it was the endless stream of fantastic outfits roaming the crowded walkways.  Mrs Dim kept reminding me that they wouldn’t mind being stopped for photos, but my essentially English nature prevented me from stepping forward often enough. We were delighted to meet two of Ankh-Morpork’s finest Watch officers, Captain Carrot and Sergeant Angua, and they were delighted that we knew who they were. The two tiny weasels are considering being Nobby Nobbs and Cheri Littlebottom next year.

Carrot and Angua appear most often in the "Guards" book s of the Discworld, by Terry Pratchett.

Carrot and Angua appear most often in the “Guards” book s of the Discworld, by Terry Pratchett.

The standard of the costumes ranged wildly, from things people had clearly cut out of cardboard the week before, to outfits that were indistinguishable from the original movie costumes. The ratio of costume to regular folks was about 1:3, so if you’re considering a costume for next year, don’t worry about being the only one – there’ll be plenty of others.

After two or three hours of strolling and gawking we were hungry and overstimulated. We wandered out and across the road to a food court and saw the most amazing mix of costumed characters and regular Vancouvians sharing tables. We queued up for pizza in front of Arthur Dent and (another) eleventh Doctor, but just behind a Hobbit. She explained she’s gone for the Hobbit costume rather than her Trek outfit. Imagine having a choice!

Even Ghostbusters need a lunchbreak...

Even Ghostbusters need a lunchbreak…

We took our pizza outside to sit in the weak sunshine, where the gardens around the fountain were dotted with X-men, Sailor Moons, Whovians and people I still don’t recognise. Maybe they were just from Vancouver?

Jean Grey is having hair trouble, it seems...

Jean Grey is having hair trouble, it seems…

After lunch it didn’t seem like a good idea forcing the Weasels back into the crowds, so we walked back to Canada Place and watched the plaza fill with people. There were dozens of impromptu photo shoots going on, and we grabbed the chance to get photos of our heroes.

These Guildies may have been one short, but their costumes were spot on.

These Guildies may have been one short, but their costumes were spot on.

GLaDos - the best interpretive costume we saw all day. She was stopped dozens of times for photos in the space of ten yards.

GLaDos – the best interpretive costume we saw all day. She was stopped dozens of times for photos in the space of ten yards.

Who wouldn't recognise that hat?

Who wouldn’t recognise that hat?

As we finally headed back through the Convention centre to the car park, we found the big group costume photo shoot going on. Everyone was smiling and laughing while a huge Thor directed like he was arranging wedding photos:

“Now VILLAINS! Ok, now all the Spidermen at the front, Batmen at the back! Black Cat, can you and that other Black Cat lie down at the front there? Let the Ghostbusters through, please!”

From above it looks like chaos, but it was organised chaos. Well, fairly organised...

From above it looks like chaos, but it was organised chaos. Well, fairly organised…

We didn’t come away from Fan Expo 2013 with a lot of loot, but we’d seen some amazing costumes, been inspired all over again for next year (and Hallowe’en!) and we’d even taken some time to speak to the comic artists who are after all, the reason for the whole event. Middle Weasel was told “You have to do a million bad drawings to get a good one” and that’s good to remember in life no matter what.

Thanks for a fun day out, Fan Expo!

You never know WHO you'll meet there!

You never know WHO you’ll meet there!

Doctor Horrible meets his nemesis...or biggest fan

Doctor Horrible meets his nemesis…or biggest fan

Maybe next year Fan Expo needs to be bigger on the inside?

Maybe next year Fan Expo needs to be bigger on the inside?

Capn America

Bard on the Beach – Shakespeare in the Summertime!

Image

I’ve mentioned before how shockingly rare it is for me, a playwright, to actually go to the theatre. Well, one of the features of the summer here in Vancouver is the excellent Bard on the beach productions. Three years in a row we have missed out, but this year, with my parents over from the UK, we were GOING!

Since the show we were booked in for was “The Taming of the Shrew” we opted to take all three weasels. We’d primed the younger two by letting them watch Branagh’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, and youngest weasel had also taken part a class presentation of that play too. I was still a little nervous, since it was likely to be a long show…but I need not have worried. The production was hilarious. Funny because of the performers, the handling of the lines, the physical comedy. The acting was impeccable, moving from broad comedy to heartbreaking emotion. It was so gripping that the time flashed by and all too soon we were on our way out again.

The show proved that you don’t need an all-singing, all dancing mobile set to produce an epic show, you don’t need holograms, or explosions to show an audience a good time, and Shakespeare doesn’t need “translating” into modern speech to appeal. Youngest Weasel is eight years old and she loved it.

There’s a big question about the play, though. If I had read it, I think I would have had real problems with Kate’s speech at the end. You know, the one that goes “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee…”. From the text you may think that Petruchio is just mercenary, using some fairly brutal brainwashing tactics to bring his young wife to heel. But in this production it was clear that he was smitten with Kate from his first sight, and his “schooling” was aimed to bring her to the point where she could love him as much as he loved her. In the play, they really stretched the point where Kate reaches out to Petruchio and asks him to take her hand, until the whole audience was practically begging him to reciprocate. When he did take her hand, he kissed the palm with such passion I could feel my wife melting three seats away. As a result, I viewed Kate’s speech with a different slant, though I feel it would have been better directed at both halves of the newly-married couples. The best relationships are built on mutual respect, after all, with each partner trying to love and serve the other more.

We’ll definitely be back for more next year.

The best convention…I never got to. Vancouver FanExpo 2012

Middle and Eldest Weasel meet a Clone Trooper and The Master Chief.

It’s the first Fan Expo here in Vancouver. Sure, we have V-Con, and probably there are other comic-based events happening now and then but there’s one crucial difference. We were going to this one. We’d missed San Diego Comicon the year we were in town, and the planned trip to Emerald City didn’t pan out. Flu prevented our attending the Bellingham Comic convention.

Hey, hey, the gang’s all here…Well, except for Robin. And Joker. And the Penguin…

So we checked out the website. We downloaded the vouchers that would get the younger weasels in free. We didn’t buy the actual tickets though. How busy could it be?

Hey look! It’s…er…ah…Well, her dress is pretty.

Maybe we should have raced to the Convention Centre as soon as we woke up, but it was a lovely day. We walked the dog, dawdled at a yard sale…we enjoyed ourselves. And meanwhile, it seemed, every other person in North America was arriving at the Convention Centre. When we reached the doors at noon, they were having to turn people away, since they were already sold out.

So…we took advantage of the sunshine and the wandering cosplayers to amuse ourselves.

It was a great spectacle, and we probably saved ourselves a fortune by not wandering the halls and seeing the wonderful merchandise, or the various stars arrayed to sign their photos…But we’ll be back for next year. And we’ll be in our OWN costumes.

I will not be going as Supergirl. Even though I have the abs for it….

What’s the greatest event YOU’VE ever missed?

This isn’t my city

This is an expression of regret over a sporting event? Really?

Coming from the UK, I’m used to seeing footage of riots. I remember Brixton, I remember the Miner’s Strike. I remember the endless procession of soccer hooligans, yelling, fighting, burning and , occasionally, looting too.

But not here.

Vancouver seemed to me to be West Coast personified. All the laid-back attitude of California, with the in-built politeness of Canada. When the USA beat Canada in the early rounds of the Winter Olympics Hockey, the crowds were good natured. I read a blog entry by an American expressing surprise at the Canadian fan who hugged him and said “You wait, man, we’ll be back!”.

As we watch the shots of the burning police cars, the mindless fools dancing round the flames, the CBC reporters repeat, in disbelieving tones, “All this is over a hockey match?”

I don’t think so. I think the game was the excuse, but the people carrying the fireworks, the ones who start to rock the cars, the ones who pick up the fence supports to smash the windows, they were going to do this anyway. Some people came to watch the game, some people came to start trouble.

Looking at Twitter and Facebook, the consensus seems to be that, even if you’re wearing a hockey shirt, if you’re part of the riot, then you’re not a fan. You’re an embarrassment.

Picture courtesy of Jack FM’s Facebook page. Speaking for my part of Vancouver, I’d like to apologise to everyone in the world. Come and visit when we’ve tidied up, really. It’s normally a great place.

Happy New Year, eh?

Watching the eagles at Brackendale - this year, we actually saw some...

The trees are still up and there are still strings of lights festooning houses down every street, but people’s thoughts have turned from Christmas to the coming year. And, of course, to the year that’s past.

It’s a funny thing about this emigration lark. We didn’t arrive in Canada on the first of January, but it’s hard to avoid thinking of this as the end of our second year.  End of the year is what it’s all about, after all.

One of the truths we’ve come to understand in this second year, is that it was both easier and harder than the first. The things that seemed so strange and difficult at first have become everyday. I know where to shop, I know how to get to a doctor, dental checkups are a snap. Mrs Dim and I both have jobs. We have friends, and as much of a social life as we can cope with. So much for the hard things. But this year we have felt some of the strain of being so far from family and old friends. Technology has been a big help, with Skype, email and FaceBook keeping us up to date with events and even helping us send real-time video greetings to my family on Christmas morning, but it’s not the same as the regular visits to and by friends. Or even the sporadic visits. Or those ‘Didn’t know we were coming, but found ourselves in the area” visits. The recent ructions over my working weekends and weasel wrangling showed us how much we missed the support of our families when it comes to getting a break from the weasels, or giving them a break from us.

A stranger relaxation comes from the acceptance that we’re here for the long haul. Mrs Dim was saying today that she’s not in such a tearing hurry to try all the winter sports on offer, or visit every corner of British Columbia RIGHT NOW, because she finally feels that there will be time for all of that. We’ve accepted, for example, that Middle Weasel really doesn’t want to give skiing a go again this winter. She got cold last year, she said, and she doesn’t want to do it again. That was a blow, because if she’s not skiing, then one of us has to not ski too. Brilliant grammar, Dim, try again. If she’s not skiing, then one of us has to stay with her, and the other has to ski with Eldest Weasel (who is competent) and Tiniest Weasel (who is a natural disaster on skis, hurtling down the slopes like a football in a helmet, but armed with two sharpened poles….). So, as you read this, I shall be off to the Mountain with Eldest Weasel only, taking my last ski of the year. Also, as it happens, my second ski of the year, but I’ll take what I can get.

We’re homeowners now, able to bore folks with our tales of renovation, and feeling a lot more Canadian because we have a piece of the land to call our own. In a year we’ve gone from being Newbies, renting and living off foreign earnings, to landed Canadians, paying tax and contributing to our community.

Back in March, celebrating our first anniversary of landing, I said we’d pretty much run out of firsts, but I think I spoke too soon. I’m finding, like a lot of people, that there are many, many firsts in a lifetime, and many more that you don’t regret having to do again and again. In the year to come we’re facing Eldest Weasel going up to High School, further employment ambitions and business expansions and the hope of a Christmas trip to the UK. Whether those things will be problems or challenges we’ll have to wait and see, but we’re ready for them either way.

Happy New Year, eh?