I’ve long admired Vancouver’s In the House Festival. Born in 2003, this creative performance series transforms private homes and living spaces into temporary theatre venues. The eclectic, intimate shows often fuse music, dance, storytelling, film, theatre, spoken word, acrobatics and burlesque to create unique cultural experiences for hosts, audiences and artists alike.
Yesterday afternoon, I got a sneak peek at their third-annual haunted theatre installation. Just in time for Halloween, the House of Faerie Bad Things is a mash-up of puppetry, opera, aerial circus, belly dance, film and music. The one-hour tour takes you through 14 different faerie environments in a labyrinth-like space. Eight shows run nightly from Oct. 29-31st with an after-party for all ticket holders following the last tour.
“It’s a very different kind of scare than ‘here’s a dude with a chainsaw,'” explains In the House artistic director and show co-producer Myriam Steinberg, who suggests the eerie tour is best suited for visitors ages 12 and up. All the scenes pull their dark, often gruesome and macabre content from old faerie tales. But, “there are a few moments that are hauntingly beautiful,” adds Steinberg.
So why faeries? What’s so frightening about Tinkerbell, Ariel and her winged sisters — and what’s the connection to Halloween?
“It’s all linked to the same culture,” says artistic director and co-producer Chris Murdoch, whose studies in comparative mythology revealed that nearly all pre-Christian societies had faerie-related celebrations around harvest time, during the period we now mark as Halloween. People believed that the veil separating the earthly world from the supernatural grows thin as winter draws near. The stories and fables passed down from early civilizations provide a cautionary tale for the season. “I really enjoy faerie mythology and the tongue-in-cheek, dark humour in it,” says Murdoch.
I have to confess I’m usually a Halloween killjoy. Save for the occasional set of Mickey Mouse ears or the year I played a vampire victim, I usually let the day slip by without celebration. The House of Faerie Bad Things offers a new way to explore the dark holiday without resorting to the usual clichés. You’ll get an excellent dose of local theatre culture — and hopefully a good scare, too.
To buy tickets (they’re going fast) or for more details, visit the In the House Festival website.
What happens when you cross a marketing executive with a theatrical dance artist? How about a floral designer and an African drummer? If you’re lucky, you get Brief Encounters — the ultimate live mashup created by Vancouver’s Tomorrow Collective.
Produced by Katy Harris-McLeod and Mara Branscombe, each installment matches 12 artists in six unexpected pairings. The partners meet just two weeks before the show to create a 10-minute live performance. The results are strange, unpredictable and sometimes even breathtaking.
I had been meaning for months to check out Brief Encounters (they’re on installment #14), and a well-timed text finally got me in the audience on Saturday. Two high points of the night included a moving collaboration between hip hop dancer Yoshi Hisanaga and visual artist Yun Lam Li, and the partnership between aerialist Keely Sills and acclaimed storyteller Ivan Coyote.
It all comes down to chemistry. Hisanaga and Li joked about their generation gap in an intro video, but blended video, music and masterful live dancing into an experience that stunned the silent crowd. Then, suspended high above the stage, Sills effortlessly flipped and stretched her body through the silks while Coyote wove a restrained tale of love, loss and family. Magic.
There will always be bigger hits and a few near-misses, but I love the spirit of this series. It made me think more deeply about collaboration — and breaking boundaries. What could give your work new colour? And why not impose a two-week timeline on an ambitious project? It’s an effective way to stop procrastinating and second-guessing yourself. There simply isn’t time.
Creativity is always pulsing below the surface, but sometimes it takes an impossible deadline (and flat-out panic) to push past what feels like a barrier. We’ve all had 11th hour triumphs. This show demonstrated that time and collaboration are ingredients — elements you can mix at will to create something surprising.