PuSh International Performing Arts Festival 2017: Preview

Sexuality can be difficult to understand, but by pushing against what is deemed "normal" can we begin to understand sexuality. Oil Pressure Vibrator does just that, challenge what is "normal."

The 13th year of this diverse festival of performing arts from near and far is once again presenting a variety of innovative dance, theatre, and music to entertain and inspire all types of audiences. PuSh runs from January 16 to February 5 in theatres across Vancouver.

Here are some top festival picks:

Best show for open minded Shakespeare fans: Macbeth

January 16–17, 19–21 — Vancouver Playhouse

This South African adaptation of Verdi’s operatic adaptation of the Shakespearean classic takes many daring liberties. Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo instead of Scotland, this updated tragedy features machine guns, mines, and a different form of violence. For traditionalists, this contemporary take on one of the Bard’s classic stories will probably not appeal, but for those looking for a radical new take on it, this will not disappoint.

Best show for GSWS students: Oil Pressure Vibrator

January 17–19 — Studio D at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts

If you’re into sex, and exploring all the nuances and weirdness of human sexuality, this is the show for you. South Korea’s Geumhyung Jeong has created a truly original piece of theatre in which she presents her sexual desire for an excavator. That’s right, she wants to do it with a giant piece of machinery. Exploring sexual fantasy like never before, Jeong explains this strange love affair as documentary footage of her training to operate the machine is shown on the screen behind her. It sounds like there will be some self-pleasuring involved as well.

Best show for Fringe-ers: Mess

January 18–22 — Waterfront Theatre

If you love a good, low-tech show about personal struggle, Mess seems like it will be a perfect fit. Caroline Horton brings this story over from England and plays Josephine, a dreamer who wants to put on a play. With her friends Boris and Sistahl, inventive songs, and plenty of humour, Josephine confronts some tough issues such as eating disorders, obsession, and addiction. This show was a huge hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, so we’re lucky that it’s crossing the pond to join this festival.

Best show for literary theatre lovers: As I Lay Dying

January 19–February 12 — Goldcorp Stage, BMO Theatre Centre

This experimental adaptation of William Faulkner’s classic novel is presented by Toronto’s Theatre Smith-Gilmour. The Bundren family’s misfortune is the centre of attention as the children are on a journey to take their mother’s body to be buried in her hometown. During the trip, many characters take up the task of telling the story, and there are plenty of poignant, funny, and tragic moments along the way. Seven actors perform 19 parts in this family pilgrimage on a bare stage. The story and their ability to create the world of the play will have to speak for itself.

Best show for classical music lovers: Four Thousand Holes

January 23, 24 — The Fox Cabaret

Pianist Vicky Chow and percussionist Ben Reimer join forces to perform John Luther Adams’ “Four Thousand Holes,” as well as world premieres from Vincent Ho and Nicole Lizée — the current composer-in-residence at Music on Main. They are sure to provide an impressive display of musical talent. Chow is known for her ability to bring her own style to some of the greats such as John Cage, Steve Reich, and John Zorn. Reimer is known for his innovative and diverse mix of musical styles.

Best show for contemporary dance lovers: FOLK-S Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

February 2–4 — Scotiabank Dance Centre

Italy’s Alessandro Sciarroni has taken a traditional Bavarian folk dance, the schuhplattler (shoe beater), to its extreme. In a feat of physical endurance, a group of dancers slap their shoes and legs with their hands in stunning energetic synchronicity. You may feel tired just watching them, but this show looks guaranteed to impress. The rhythm, stamina, and constant motion of these dancers will make you wonder how much they can endure as they take it to the limit.  

Best show for film lovers: Portraits in Motion

January 24–26 — York Theatre

A series of moving images; that’s what a film is, essentially. When slowed down, these images can be powerful, poignant portraits. Germany’s Volker Gerling presents the art of flipbooks as his photographs, taken in quick succession, show a mini movie of the subject. He flips the book on stage under a camera that projects it onto a large screen. While showing the images, he also tells the story behind the photo. Gerling has taken this show across Germany and abroad and audiences are moved beyond their expectations by these intimate moments brought to life.  

Best free shows for SFU students: Documentary Film Series
January 18, 25; February 1 — Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema

SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts plays host to three different documentaries curated by DOXA’s Dorothy Woodend. The series features a collection of dance shorts (Dance Dance Revolution: Shorts Program, Jan. 18), defining what “normal” life means to different segments of the population (Natural Disorder, Jan. 25), and choir auditions (Wide Open Sky, Feb. 1).