Say the word “Canada” and a host of stereotypical associations, images, and even phrases probably come to mind (eg plaid shirts, Tim Hortons, hockey, excessive politeness, “eh” and “aboot”). And let’s be honest. Many of them are endearingly ridiculous.
In celebration of Canada 150, Vancouver TheatreSports League (VTSL) has a new show, Oh Canada – The True North Strong and Funny, which had me giggling incessantly. It’s cleverly, tongue-in-cheek hilarious.
The show runs Thursday to Saturday evenings at VTSL (1502 Duranleau Street) until September 2, 2017. In other words, make sure to fit it into your summer schedule.
True to the spirit of TheatreSports, no show is the same as any other due to the improvisational nature of scenes and the fact that cast members also change. What does remain consistent are the laughs at good ol’ Canada’s expense.
I arrived at a recent performance to find a wilderness set, complete with a cabin and trees and mountains galore. Already, I was in the realm of the Canadian mystique.
The cast for the night consisted of a host (to manage the unruly improvisors) and a handful of other VTSL members. Brad Rossington, our park ranger host, was the highlight of the show, adopting the ultimate quintessential Canadian persona: self-effacing and unfailingly earnest, while also wryly humourous. And, of course, he was in a perma-canoe, paddling away across the stage.
I’ve seen numerous excellent VTSL shows, but Oh Canada was one of their best. Those from Canada will enjoy the exaggerated mirror held up to them, while visitors can take pleasure in non-stop poking fun at Canada’s idiosyncrasies and foibles.
The show unfolded with a series of scenes derived from classic TheatreSports games and, in some cases, Canadian twists on them (eg hockey parents on the sidelines coaching their VTSL ‘children’). Audience members were invited to respond to Canadianized questions: name a Canadian celebrity, name a Canadian sport, list some Canadian cities. Be careful though, you may have a scene involving Justin Bieber playing lacrosse in Moose Jaw.
The skits included a spontaneous camp fire musical, a spoof on the Molson “I am Canadian” commercial, a scene that partially involved begging for a selfie from Justin Trudeau, another that had players moving in and out of William Shatner mode (What. Are. You. Doing. Over. There?), and an over-the-top one involving so-bad-it’s-good franglais and a monstrous poutine. During intermission, audience members also got to write down what they loved most about Canada, resulting in some madcap scenes. Intermission also gave time for couples/friends/family to take a pic on stage as Anne of Green Gables and a lumberjack.
As someone raised in front of CBC TV, lulled to sleep as a kid by Gordon Lightfoot ballads while driving the Trans-Canada Highway eastward, and obsessed with all things salmon, this was the show for me. I was basically laughing at myself and the silliness of Canadiana.
One of my favourites was the ultimate in audience participation with a couple who had recently moved to Canada from India and Australia respectively, recounting how they met in Vancouver as comedic fodder for the troupe. The couple then got to see their meet cute re-enacted on stage, with the option of getting the players to re-do certain lines if they didn’t get the details quite right. This scene allowed for a funny and sweet look at the many diverse individuals that contribute to the Canadian fabric.
The hilarity didn’t let up though, with everything from Heritage Minutes, Hinterland Who’s Who, to the Canadian national anthem being skewered.
Between scenes, well-known Canadian music was played, ranging from a song by Great Big Sea to another by Bryan Adams. Audience members clapped and sang along in impromptu Canadian karaoke. Brace yourself for Nickleback at one point.
All in all, I left with my sides smarting from laughter and a sudden, inexplicable craving for Timbits, washed down with a double-double.
Further info and tickets can be found on-line.