Summer has officially arrived and with it comes typical outdoorsy couples, artisanal ice cream, and a hiatus on TV’s best shows. The break provides a chance to breathe some fresh air and remember that the sun is out in full force. It’s also when one can hole up and binge watch all the shows you missed throughout the year.
As appealing as that sounds, there’s a better way to load up on culture this summer. Ensemble Theatre Company’s 4th annual Repertory Festival runs non-stop on a three-day cycle, so you can get the full-on binge experience while supporting Vancouver’s local arts scene.
Betrayal opens the festival and follows an affair between a man and his best friend’s wife, told in reverse chronological order. The second show brings us a notorious British work, The Romans in Britain, which was slapped with a private prosecution by a Christian morality campaigner in the 1980s. Finally, the audience is given a comedic reprieve with The Country Wife, a play where marriage is valued about as much as pocket lint. Between the three of them, there’s more than enough drama, violence and dirty jokes to leave Game of Thrones collecting dust on the DVR.
The festival isn’t just a marathon for its audience. Tariq Leslie, Ensemble’s Artistic Director, highlights the work performers are putting in, “Most actors are in at least two out of the three shows.” Producing three plays at the same time poses a large workload for the small theatre company, particularly one with less than five seasons under its belt.
Although the festival is in its youthful days, you’d be mistaken to assume it suffers from an identity crisis. Leslie says of the festival, “[It] harkens back a little bit more to an earlier system, the repertory system, that is enjoying a little bit of resurgence. I’m not big on message plays. I’m big on theme plays. I try to choose intelligent and thoughtful texts that are also entertaining and so far Vancouver has responded really well to that.”
Reviewing the script selection, it’s clear what he’s referring to. All of the shows contain not only a struggle, which any good script will have, but a grander battle and the violence that comes with the territory. As the director of The Country Wife, Leslie was particularly interested in the script’s comedic battle where we see, as he puts it, “ridiculous, puritanical morality getting skewered.” Ensemble Theatre’s thoughtful play choices provides the viewer with a calculated series of shows instead of relying on those random “You Might Like…” recommendations.
So, if this festival is just like a Netflix-induced zombie state, why not just stay at home? Leslie answers that question with his theatrical objective: “If you can do something that presents well-rounded, believable human beings, it really has the power to move and engage people.”
Move and engage. When was the last time an LCD screen moved and engaged you?
When: July 14 to August 20
Where: Jericho Arts Centre