Colleen Wheeler in a scene from The Initiation Trilogy.

So at the end of June after Maggie Langrick, the Entertainment Editor at The Sun, discovered her theatre critic Peter Birnie was taking a buyout I agreed to do “a few stories” for the paper. Almost 100 stories later I’m kinda shocked at how much fun I’ve had with my return to the madness that is daily journalism, and my first foray into the loopy world of overnight reviewing.

I got to spread the word about some stories it was a treat to spread the word about including the local staged reading of Michael Healey’s powerful political comedy, Proud, Jackson Davies’ remembrances of The Beachcombers and most recently the story of Erin Northcott trying to fulfill her late brother’s dying wish by finishing his movie.

I also had the privilege of writing a couple of obituaries for people I knew and admired. I was lucky enough to work with Winston Rekert on the debut episode of the TV series that launched me as a TV writer — Terminal City. No not the one about cancer. I’ve um… Discovered… A clip of his appearance here. He was a treat to work with. It was an honour and agonizing to say goodbye to my friend and occasional mentor, Ian Caddell.

I also got to see some amazing theatre.

When I first started reviewing I thought… I must be out of practice… Not only was I enjoying almost everything, but I was excited about so many upcoming shows. If I hadn’t been reviewing, I would have been buying season ticket packages — something I’ve almost never done. When I ran this by Colin Thomas at The Georgia Straight he reassured me it wasn’t my imagination, he couldn’t remember a Fall with such an impressive slate of theatre.

Since I’ve only been doing the reviewing thing for half the year — and I don’t get to cover everything or see all the shows I wanted to — it seems weird to do a top ten list, but here were my fave five of the shows I saw in Vancouver in 2012. We’ll go with alphabetical order here because the first one starts with A…

Amaluna. I’ve been a Cirque Du Soleil fan since I covered their first touring show at the Vancouver Children’s festival. Yes, I’m pretty sure that was their FIRST touring show. I’ve seen a lot of their shows, but Amaluna — with its revamped Tempest storyline, the first narrative I can recall that held up throughout as narrative, and sexy style — is my favourite to date. Who’da thought playing puzzle games with palm fronds would be a showstopper?

Blind Date at the Cultch. I’m told this clown show about a first date — where the first date is dragooned from the audience — usually runs 90 minutes. The night I was there it clocked in at two hours and change because the girlfriend of the onstage volunteer seemed to need an intervention of her own. I came away with a huge crush on the clown Mimi  If I could have seen it again I would have. If I can see it again I will. One day I hope I will be Mimi’s onstage date.

Far Side of the Moon. Saw it twice — once with Quebec stage star, Yves Jacques, who now owns the role, the second time with the show’s creator and the original performer of the solo piece, Robert Lepage. I’m not sure if it’s Lepage’s all-time masterpiece — I wish I knew enough of his canon to compare and contrast — but it’s an astonishing piece of theatre and there was a real power in seeing him perform the role himself – something he hadn’t done in eight years. While I enjoyed both performances, Lepage had an ease to his interpretation that was completely charming.

The Electric Company’s The Initiation Trilogy — three unique theatre experiences, one show. I wasn’t reviewing this one, so I didn’t take notes and can’t recall which poet wrote which section. I liked two of the segments, but the  sequence in Chernobyl… Wow. Explosive. Between this and The Penelopiad last year at the Playhouse I think I may be a Colleen Wheeler groupie.

It  was a treat to see the opening night of the final run of The Number 14. For me half the fun was flashing back to the original cast and remembering my initial shock and delight at those routines. A truly special show…

Other fun nights at the theatre, so I guess that makes ’em “honourable mentions”: Aaron Bushkowsky’s Play With Monsters, Mary Poppins, which I got to check out with my niece, The Flame‘s Christmas special at The Cultch, Touchstone’s mindbender, Eternal Hydra, Dickens’ Women, Bard on the Beach’s King John and the Firehall’s Good Timber. And I was surprised by how much I laughed at two period comedies — the Arts Club’s production of She Stoops to Conquer and Bard’s Merry Wives of Windsor.

I’m currently psyched to see Ride the Cyclone for the first time (I’ve got a preview of it coming out just before PUSH opens), my friend TJ Dawe’s show, Medicine (Firehall Arts Centre), Grim & Fischer (at the Cultch) and Craiglist Cantata (at the Arts Club).

Anyway, glad the Mayans were wrong and wishing everyone a very entertaining 2013.

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