You can’t argue with the premise of 100% Van­cou­ver — turn­ing sta­tis­tics about our city into performance.

100 typ­i­cal Van­cou­verites, cho­sen care­fully to rep­re­sent the dif­fer­ent demo­graph­ics of Van­cou­ver to cre­ate a por­trait of the city (drawn 1/6000th to scale), enter a stage set up with signs mark­ing Van­cou­ver neigh­bour­hoods. They intro­duce them­selves to the audi­ence and describe a pre­cious object that they have brought with them before stand­ing in their neigh­bour­hood. The per­form­ers range in age by about ninety years and the youngest chil­dren bring stuffed ani­mals or iPods. The older per­form­ers have fam­ily pho­tos and keep­sakes. The old­est par­tic­i­pant holds a century-old lamp.

I admit that I’m skep­ti­cal. After all, I see a mixed cohort of Van­cou­verites clutch­ing at var­i­ous objects every day, but it’s not the­atre — it’s called rid­ing the bus. And while the con­cept is clever, the exe­cu­tion is flawed — some per­form­ers are vis­i­bly fatigued by all the stage cross­ing, and the youngest chil­dren aren’t sure what to do. But it’s impos­si­ble not to be gen­uinely moved while watch­ing your neigh­bours reveal per­sonal, inti­mate details.

Per­form­ers take turns ask­ing ques­tions to the audi­ence and the per­form­ers about their lives and beliefs, ask­ing them to iden­tify or not with the state­ment. Signs appear on either side of the stage, read­ing “ME” or “NOT ME,” and the per­form­ers flow towards the side that describes them. Some­times the per­form­ers stand together and raise their hands, or sit around the stage. A cam­era projects an image of the per­form­ers from above, cre­at­ing a human pie chart.

100% Van­cou­ver reveals the strange­ness of imper­sonal, abstract sta­tis­tics. A ques­tion like, “Have you suf­fered from a men­tal ill­ness?” or “Have you been a vic­tim of vio­lence?” is divorced from the peo­ple it describes when ren­dered as a per­cent­age. But the indi­vid­u­als on stage are the data, and the audi­ence and per­form­ers are con­nected by tran­scen­dent moments of recog­ni­tion and comfort.

Sta­tis­tics become the tool for build­ing com­mu­nity, remind­ing us that we have been a com­mu­nity with a shared and com­plex his­tory all along. The atmos­phere is rev­er­ent, respect­ful, and non-judgmental. If these audi­ence meme­bers have ever writ­ten a hate­ful com­ment on a CBC arti­cle about addic­tion or incar­cer­a­tion, you wouldn’t know it from their steady, heart­felt applause.

100% Van­cou­ver
Part of the PuSh Fes­ti­val
SFU Woodward’s The­atre
Remain­ing Per­for­mances:
Jan­u­ary 21st & 22nd, 7:00 pm

Pho­tographs by The­atre Replace­ment (Vancouver).

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