Top 10 Live Performances I saw in 2023

This year, I wanted to get out more and see more shows – we have such a bustling art scene here in Victoria that it seems a shame to miss out! Including all dance shows, magic shows, improv shows, stand up, plays, and concerts, I saw 54 live performances this year!

My goal next year is to see more visual art shows, as well as concerts and dance performances to diversify my viewings, and hopefully to catch something on the mainland as well! So what I’m saying, if you want a pal to catch a show with, let me know!

Honorable Mentions

Stranger in this Land – Bema Theatre

I always feel a bit cheeky posting about Bema because I feel utterly biased – I’m lucky enough to volunteer with this small but mighty theatre company!

Despite my alleged bias, Stranger in this Land was an absolute delight to take in. This show was an incredibly touching musical about the five generations of history of the playwright’s family – filled with family lore, rumours, stories, and jokes, you cannot help but laugh and cry (sometimes both at the same time) at this beautiful little show.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – Kaleidoscope Theatre

This team had a great run with almost a full sell out – and I’m so pleased for them! An absolutely charming and ambitious two-hander, this show fully put us in the mood for the holiday season. Wonderful, warm, sweet, and beautifully detailed, this show flows beautifully without a moment’s lag.

I think theatre for young audiences is often unfairly dismissed as juvenile, but this was a lovely, beautiful show for all ages! Just because it’s intended for younger people, doesn’t mean that you won’t love it, too.

The Glass Bell – Paper Street Theatre

I love the work Paper Street is doing – I’m not sure if I know of any improv company that is pushing the boundaries quite like Paper Street is. This year, The Glass Bell took on the ambitious works of renowned poet Sylvia Plath (a personal favourite of mine, so the bar was HIGH, let me tell you). The night we saw the show, it was dark, moody, and perfectly Plath. The stakes for this drama were precipitous, and showcased the skill of the cast and the crew up in the booth who were also improvising.

Paper Street Theatre isn’t afraid to sit in the long, quiet moments high drama, even in their funny shows. They try different genres and formats, often taking on longform which can go off the rails really easily. I would wager that even people who say they don’t like improv would find something in Paper Street’s season that they love!

Top 10 in 2023!

10 – Stupid F**king Bird – Theatre Inconnu

This show just worked for me – I’m not sure exactly why.

I loved the self referential, hilarious retelling of a play I felt such a connection to all those years ago. The pace was snappy – even for a two plus hour show. The pacing was great, the comedy was spot on, and it held me rapt from the first moment.

9 – Eating Hot Dogs at the Eiffel Tower (Fringe 2023) – The British Woman

This was a last minute add to my Fringe lineup – and I’m so thrilled I got to see it! Such a beautiful and hilarious look at the histories of our families, told and untold.

Maggie Gallant is an utterly engaging performer who takes us on her journey learning she is adopted (and subsequently hidden from her on advice to her parents from the adoption agency), and the finding of her biological family via an online DNA test. She tells her story, primarily with humour, but with equal parts wholehearted openness, and love and empathy where it would often have been easier to respond with anger.

8 – Vox in the StarsVox Humana Chamber Choir at Centre of the Universe

This annual concert begins with a piece specially commissioned for Vox humana where the 100 plus year old dome opens to the skies above – and it just gets more beautiful from there.

An incredible evening of choral music in a spectacular venue – amazing!

7 – Where are you From, From? (Fringe 2023)- Aliya Kanani

When we saw this show, we were laughing so hard that Kanani came out after the show to thank our group for our “great laughs” – so that should tell you how funny she was.

She’s so playful and sweet and hilarious, and I’m so lucky she did the fringe circuit all the way out here! (Bonus, she ad libbed some stuff with the ASL interpreter which was just perfection). The theme of Kanani’s work does focus on the awkward “but where are you from, from?” of growing up in a mostly white place, but her comedy specifically focuses on being a human including misadventures with IUDs, traveling around the world and the people she met as an flight attendant, and people making incredibly tone deaf recommendations for her routine.

If she comes back again, I’m 100% going to see her.

6 – Chiaro:Scurio (Spring 2023 and Fringe 2023) – Broken Rhythms

It’s almost a gimmie to say something by Broken Rhythms is on a top ten list. Winner of the best of the Victoria fringe 2023, and consistently putting out brand new, totally unique and beautiful shows, they’re just amazing. Having been lucky enough to see this show twice, once when they premiered it, and once again at Fringe, this show just flies by. This show is moody, dark, and subversive, like something out of a fever dream. I recommend reading the show notes before or catching a talkback before as it gives more context for this spectacular performance. It constantly amazes me the absolute precision that the dance troupe are able to achieve. Moment after moment, their physical expression, their breathwork, and their held poses are so spectacularly timed, it’s almost too much to take in at just one performance. Bravo to everyone involved with this show!

As a side note, in 2022 Broken Rhythms did a collab performance with Paper Street to create GRIMM, an improvised fairy tale – and this to me just so perfectly encapsulated why these companies are so incredible. Both are pushing the boundaries of their art, and trying new collaborations. Broken Rhythms clearly demonstrated that they are able to do new and scripted works incredibly, but also improvise shows the range of their artistic skills.

5 – New Earth Bandits (Fringe 2023) – Snafu

If you know my theatre preferences, (and truly, why would you know this?) site specific and found theatre venues tickle a part of my brain – I absolutely LOVE theatre out and about in atypical locations.

So while New Earth Bandits has a found theatre venue going for it, it truly was a spectacular theatre experience – and I do mean experience.

As you wander throughout Macaulay Point Park, you’ll find characters from 7023, and are encouraged to interact with them. Some joyful, some seemingly nefarious, some joyless - all part of the experience!

There was moments of beautiful togetherness as the audience created music together, as we were dazzled by a dance number that felt so precipitously close to the literal edge, we were collectively charmed by a little bit of a love story, and were stunned by incredible larger than life puppets that were beautifully revealed in the setting sunlight.

4 – Shoemaker’s Son – Theatre Inconnu, created and performed by Amira Abdel-Malek

This show was so incredibly good, especially considering it was the first time it was on its feet. I adored the projection puppetry, but I especially loved the live mixing of soundscapes.

There was something so beautiful about the joyful telling of Amira’s father’s life – it was told with the heart of a poet. I’m delighted to see what this innovative performer comes up with next!

3 – Wonderheads Christmas Carol at the Belfry

Wonderheads has delivered some incredibly beautiful productions, and I’m eager to catch them whenever I can – but I will admit that I thought it would just be a regular run of the mill version of a Christmas Carol. I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it.

Well, I was wrong.

Leave it to the Wonderheads to help me rediscover the joy of the story I’ve seen and heard before – pure joy, pure heart. The scoring by The Singer and the Songwriter was amazing, and I’m so glad to return to the soundtrack to rekindle the magic.

2 – Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

A few years before covid, I had a chance to catch Old Stock. Something came up, and I didn’t get to it. When the reviews and snippits came out, I knew I messed up. So, when it came back to the Belfry this year, I knew I had to go.

And I was excited to catch it twice – in the front row both times!

Intense, hilarious, heartbreaking, while also full of heart, this story of playwright Hannah Moscovitch’s family story is full of heartbreak and grit – the true immigrant experience. While every member of the cast were spectacular, Ben Caplan’s performance was beyond words.

1 – Jeremy Dutcher

Dutcher is a Wolastoqiyik member of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada. He is a classically trained musician and tenor singer. You likely have heard Mehcinut as it had some radio play.

This year, I only caught a handful of live concerts, and despite that, seeing Jeremy Dutcher live was such a phenomenal experience that it could not be anything else but my number one spot.

He was utterly electric, at once so personal and up close, but a sound that filled the space so beautifully and completely, it was amazing. Through the wax cylinder recordings of his people, including the voices of his long-passed family members, Dutcher sings the most beautiful harmonies that moved me to tears.

Hearing him whisper the opening lines of Skicinuwihkuk, it felt like he was singing to a few friends around a campfire, but it swelled to an incredible song that utterly filled the concert hall.

The show had a fantastic special guest who was at once unexpected, and also a perfect fit – only to have Dutcher return wearing his spectacular cloak created by artist Caroline Monnet, it was a beautiful love letter to so many art forms all at once.

I was buzzing for days after seeing that show.

How fortunate am I to have spent a year doing things I loved with people who I adore – in all those 54 shows, I only saw one by myself!

As I said, my goals for next year is to diversify my art intake a bit more – let me know if you want to catch a show together!

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