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.
Part of the PuSh Festival
SFU Woodward’s Theatre
January 21st & 22nd, 7:00 pm
Photographs by Theatre Replacement (Vancouver).