The Ghost of Simon Snotface At The Newly Renovated York TheatreSaturday, December 07, 2013
The scene in George Pal’s 1960 The Time Machine where our time traveler (H. George Wells) sits in a marvelous Victorian contraption and travels into the future has always been imbedded in my brain. In the special effects of the time, the machine is surrounded by rapid flickering, an appearing and a disappearance of trees, mountains, building, and an orange glow that represents WWI. It would seem that those events occupied the same place in physical time.
I feel the same as I drive through downtown Vancouver and see Pier BC, as a ghost of my imagination when I glimpse at Canada Place. Whatever is at Davie and Richards is for me only the old offices of Vancouver Magazine. I feel much like Wells sitting on my machine and recognizing the place for what it was and not for what it is.
It was with all that circulating in my confused mind that I attended with my Rosemary the premiere of Charles Demers’s Jack & the Beanstalk: An East Van Panto (directed by Amiel Gladstone and with music by Veda Hille) at the newly renovated (saved is more like it!) York Theatre, on Commercial Drive this past Friday.
|Firday night - Victoria Drive circa 1978
The event brought to mind another Friday night sometime around 1978 when I attended a punk concert at the York after having taken some pictures of inhabitants of the punk quarters, a row of houses at the almost end of Victoria Drive, near East Hastings. Former occupants were Art Bergmann and John Armstrong, aka Buck Cherry of the Modernettes.
Of the York Theatre I have two memories that are indelible. One is of Art Bergmann sitting on the balcony of the York, his face in delight while listening to The Scissors on stage singing his favourite punk song, Wrecked My Car. The other one is of the Simon Snotface (with what looked like a used Tampax hanging from one of the buttons of his black leather jacket) in the lobby and standing by the most horribly tacky wallpaper in Vancouver, the wallpaper of the York Theatre. It had a passing resemblance to the one of the Commodore Ballroom of the time.
|Friday night - Victoria Drive circa 1978
I am happy to report that the lobby of the newly renovated York Theatre is not as tacky although while standing by the brilliant blue tiled walls I told Malcolm Parry, “I feel like turning around and having a piss. This wall resembles an airport bathroom.” Parry with a smile on his face (the room was a din of people) answered, “You think I can hear what you are saying but I can’t.” And I left it at that.
While I have known that C12-H22-O11 is the formula for sugar and that U.S. Grant’s horse was called Cincinnati, I had no knowledge of what a panto was. My head is full of useless facts surrounded by vacant holes of ignorance.
Furthermore I did not know that the Christmas pantomime was an English tradition in which a fairy tale was modified and that di rigueur the play would have a man dressed as a woman and sometimes a woman playing a man.
While I enjoyed all the goings on of the co-production by The Cultch & Theatre Replacement, my pleasure was increased only after I filled in the blanks of knowledge on what a panto really was. I finally “got it”.
Of the production three things stood out. One was that Allan Zinyk was so good as a woman that he could easily have sat on Wells’s time machine and gone back in time to the 70s to work in the original Hamburger Mary’s on Davie.
Two, Dawn Patten who can indeed carry a tune and even play an instrument as she proved in the 2011 Arts Club Theatre production of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad , sang wonderfully (if painfully) out of tune while Veda Hille played her harp (for her) and the Cheese Song (I could not find it in the program) was perhaps one of the few songs I have ever heard in which almost no word (the name of a cheese) was ever repeated except for a few at the end.
Third, the presence of the Cultch Executive Director, Heather Redfern in a dress, very tight and very short, and stockings with little black points that tickled the edge of the dress where it attempted to hide, not too well, some nicely shaped thighs, shocked me, ever so nicely and my delight was increased when I found out that Redfern is credited for the costume design of the play.
Seeing Redferns's two-woman cow, Dawn Petten and Patti Allan, is worth the price of admission for this hilarious play which should be more so if you brush up on that very English Christmas panto tradition.