Surreal Theatre offers us a summer theatre production toted as an interactive roaming theatre experience that takes showgoers through the backstreets of Gastown, Vancouver. I attended a preview performance back in late June, and have up to now tried to find a way to write about this experience. Perhaps in this way, this experience has been quite surreal.
As a strong supporter of live theatre, a patron of the arts, and a previous board member and behind-the-scenes volunteer of a local theatre organization, I was excited to hear of this new production. Similar to what ITSAZOO and Boca Del Lupo has done in terms of immersive and interactive theatre experiences, using various Vancouver settings such as parking lots and city parks, I had high expectations as to what Surreal Theatre had to offer.
The evening of the play, we met the rest of the showgoers at a meeting spot that was emailed to us prior to the show. We were then taken on a journey with the two characters of the show, Tom and Charlie. Right away I felt awkward, perhaps eavesdropping on a long 70 minute conversation between two millennials figuring out whether they were just friends or more. The storyline was too predictable and normal, and at times I couldn’t sympathize with the female lead, Charlie, and felt sorry for Tom. He was going to be the sucker that the girl treats like dirt and leaves behind. Their relationship was too non-chalent, a bit dull. I didn’t get a sense of chemistry between the two characters. Was I being too jaded and cynical? Perhaps this is what the writer wanted us to feel. I was waiting for the surreal part of the play to begin. As my hubby pointed out, perhaps we might come into contact with a murder plot or a dead body?
As we followed the characters, I had a dark sense of fear as we walked into the alleyways of Gastown. Strolling through the alleys, not once was any of that referenced in the play. The beautiful backdrop of the brickwork in Gastown, buskers playing music on the street, tourists admiring the old steamed clock, none of this was ever used within the play. I was disappointed by the lack of referencing to the positive and the negative surroundings of Gastown. Perhaps some light jokes about the alleys, or stopping to listen to the busker play his tunes, or taking a photo for a tourist – these elements incorporated into the play would have made it more entertaining.
As a first production for Surreal Theatre, I do have to give credit to Nick Steeves, the Producer and Founder of Surreal Theatre. It takes a lot of passion, dedication, and courage to mount a show in a city like Vancouver, where most people would prefer a sporting event or a BBQ with friends over going to a theatre production. Despite the disappointment I had after attending the show, I think there’s still hope and potential for a small company like Surreal Theatre. With refinement of the show as it continues with its run, as well as perhaps a discounted ticket price, both locals and tourists who have not attended a roaming theatre experience before might want to give this a shot and may enjoy the little adventure down the alleys of Gastown.
For more information on Surreal Theatre and its production, visit: www.surrealtheatre.com. The show runs Tuesdays and Fridays at 8PM until September 30th. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online through their website.