Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Vancouver culture

I probably have mentioned this before, but the cultural scene is pretty dire here.  And what is particularly upsetting is how amateurish so many of these companies and institutions are.  Take for example, the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  The sight lines are poor, but the dance company doesn't take that into account, staging a lot of the action at the front of the stage.  Much more upsetting to me is how the seats line up exactly, rather than being offset, so you almost guarantee being blocked by the person in front of you (it certainly was when we went to see The Nutcracker).  There is an upcoming production of Swan Lake in the same hall, and I decided to pass.

Other halls are slightly better, and the Chan Centre has better seat alignment, though in this case it is in such a remote location (very far side of UBC) that I probably won't go again.  Also, the restroom and lobby layout is terrible.

I've never shaken my grudge against The Cultch.  On top of being relatively inaccessible, they provided terrible transit directions on their website and an incorrect map!  This caused me to miss a production of Waiting for Godot, and I have decided to never go again.  The box office is also quite amateurish and indirectly spoiled an event over at SFU where the SFU box office used The Cultch's computer system, which was totally fouled up when I went to see The Far Side of the Moon.  I don't like trying to reach anything at Granville Island, and I've basically given up on trying to get to UBC.

It is a real shame that Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company closed, as that was kind of the closest to Victory Gardens (I saw Red there, which was their second-to-last production).  Arts Club seems just a bit closer to Goodman, and certainly overpriced for what it actually offers.  I've gone once, but probably won't go again.  One of the main downtown movie theatres is shutting down and I think that is going to put a big crimp in VIFF.  I didn't even go this year, though I went a few times last year, before the family arrived.  For whatever reason, I don't get really stoked by going to see foreign films in theatres.  Maybe it is just one too many things to care about and track.

I do enjoy Bard on the Beach for what it is, but it tends to go for slightly sloppy and populist versions of Shakespearean plays.  It looks like I will only go to one production in 2013 (Hamlet), just as I only went once in 2012 (Macbeth).  To be fair, I would have gone to see Findley's Elizabeth Rex this summer if I hadn't seen such a terrific production at Chicago Shakespeare last year (and I don't want to risk having a great production over-written with an average one in my mind).

And don't get me started on how lousy the Vancouver Art Gallery is.  The permanent collection is an embarrassment (unless you love, love, love Emily Carr), though some of the touring exhibits have been nice.

On a more personal level, I am really bummed that the Pacific Rim String Quartet have more or less hung up their bows and called it a day.  One of the very first things I did after arriving in Vancouver was to go to one of their concerts.  I ended up seeing three out of five (and took my son to one) and thought they were quite good for a local ensemble.  One less quality offering in the city... 

So out of everything on offer in Vancouver, I have pretty much scaled back to VSO at the Orpheum (not the Chan Centre), occasional student productions at Langara College and the occasional play at Firehall Arts Centre.  Well, Ninja Pirates may not be totally defunct after all, and I may go see their next show, and occasionally there are other interesting co-op productions.  Still, this seems quite paltry for a city this size. It is definitely a "push factor" for sure.

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