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After shooting Diamonds are Forever Sean Connery vowed he’d never play the role of James Bond again and, when he did, the producers took a not so subtle jab at his return to the role by titling the film, Never Say Never Again.
After The Eagles broke up they said they’d tour again “when Hell froze over” and a few years ago I caught them on the last leg of their second or third or fourth “Hell Freezes Over” tour.
I didn’t make any pronouncement quite that dramatic when I said I’d never review theatre again or maybe I did… but that was back in the days before the interweb, so it’s not like anything I said would be on the record anywhere. Once upon a time I was a theatre critic in a bygone era now known to Vancouver theatre-goers as “B.C” (Before Colin). I reviewed for The Georgia Straight, CBC TV and was west coast correspondent and reviewer for the much mourned Theatrum. My all-time fave review for Theatrum… the one where I suggested that if any international festival was ever looking for a show from Vancouver they had to catch a plane and see The Number 14.
After I stopped reviewing for The Straight the editor asked me what I thought about Colin Thomas taking over my beat (after a stint by my friend Michael Groberman). I still remember how moved I was when I saw Colin’s beautiful play One Thousand Cranes and it was a much more vivid memory all those years ago, so my response was that he had my vote. I quite loved the idea of another playwright reviewing. I knew the amazing John Lazarus (who has written some fantastic plays) had reviewed before I came on the scene and John’s early encouragement — especially after I panned a Playhouse show everyone else had gushed over — made me feel like I was on the right track.
The first reviews I wrote were for The Ubyssey, because I loved theatre and couldn’t afford tickets and that’s how I ended up in the audience for the premiere of the first play ever written by this funny young actor named Panych…
As a theatre lover I feel like having seen Morris Panych and Ken MacDonald in the premiere of Last Call at the Cultch is like… I dunno… having seen the Beetles in Hamburg or Springsteen back when he played Jersey bars.
A few weeks ago I got a call from the Entertainment Editor at The Vancouver Sun asking if I wanted to go for lunch. Over lunch she told me the Sun’s longtime theatre critic, Peter Birnie was taking a buy-out. She asked if I could write the occasional story about theatre. “Sure,” I said. “I’d love to let people know what’s happening in Vancouver.”
When the Playhouse died I took two days out of a Hawaiian vacation to write a freelance piece about it for The Tyee because I felt that attention must be paid and I realized there weren’t many outlets that would cover what I felt was the most important Vancouver arts story in years.
“Would you be willing to review,” the editor asked.
“Hell no,” I said. I’ve been asked to review by a few publications over the years. I vaguely recall coming back to The Straight a year or two after I left to help them cover the Fringe when they were trying to review every show, but that was a lifetime ago.
And then I thought about it… And thought about it… And finally… “I’ll give it a try.” She bought me fish tacos, what was I supposed to say?
I’m still a little wary of reviewing but hey, it’s not my day job… (I’ve got people waiting for screenplays and TV projects and a stage musical and a new book who would be very upset with me if it was). I’m just a freelancer working from story to story. But in three weeks I’ve had the chance to spread the word about four fun productions, some great Vancouver performers — Scott Bellis and The Sunday Service — and the Vancouver reading of Michael Healey’s Proud.
I hope you’ll check out the articles and comment on them when you feel like saying something — even if that something is critical of whatever I’ve written — because part of why I agreed to do this is that not only are the arts an endangered species, so is arts coverage. And the more readers/viewers/clicks/comments arts stories get in the newspaper the more likely the arts will still be in the newspaper — regardless of who’s covering them tomorrow — because hey, only diamonds are forever…