The Full Light of Day at the Vancouver Playhouse

Blood Alley, Gastown

Blood Alley, Gastown

Last night was quiet and cold in Vancouver.  A friend compared the quiet of the downtown streets to Christmas Day in the city.  Walking from Gastown to the Vancouver Playhouse, I agreed with her.  The cold inspired calm and wonder.  Grateful to watch The Full Light of Day last night, it was our first experience watching an Electric Company Theatre production, and it was worlds away from quiet and cold. Intrigued by the company’s self-prescribed “exploration of how concept and form illuminate content” I was eager to witness how their use of light, set design and film projection would enhance the experience of the play.

Speaking with production staff in the lobby, Electric Company Theatre is proud to bring its newest play onto the Vancouver Playhouse stage.  We spoke of the decline of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company, which is no longer the resident company of the venue.  To experience live performances, artists must be brave and industrious to bring their unique messages forward, and it follows that without support from the community, artists are unable to sustain the financial requirements to deliver them. A beauty of live theatre is its ability to illuminate stories and concepts that tie our lives together, but this requires physical and mental connection from its audience.

The confident and beautifully cast ensemble brought to life a story about family, modernity and our internal struggles in today’s society.  As described by director Kim Collier, “because The Full Light of Day is set within a context of our complicity with the surrounding material structures that drive our lives, our economy; I did not want to create a simple illusionary space on stage, but challenge us to transform the stage in a kind of continuous material reality in a very concrete way.  It expresses something of the excess and obsession of our time and then simplifies into something more ephemeral, spiritual.”

It was an eclectic visual experience.  Sets were pushed across the stage, live and pre-recorded videos were projected onto walls and screens; the visual affects expanded the play’s canvas, and supported the movement of the dialogue at times. One of the most impactful projections was a grand tree with its branches standing tall.  In the theatre, you could see the leaves softly rustle and hear the sound of its soft movements.  It was reminiscent of summer days, where you may have spent laying under such a beauty, hoping and wishing for beautiful things, or simply passing time on the grass. 

The manipulation of light and shadow were more impactful than the film projections on screen.  The projections felt chaotic at times, taking away from the discussion on stage. The balance of visual stimulation and verbal dialogue was inconsistent, but this could be interpreted as a metaphor to punctuate the discord within the family and each unique character portrayed on stage.  Mary’s demand for silence was complimented by the visual quiet, inspiring forgiveness. 

There were times when the experience felt as though you were watching tv while checking your phone, and maybe indulging in a quick video sidebar.  This was brilliant, but also visually overwhelming.  Playwright Daniel Brooks “wanted to write a screenplay,” and you could feel it.  The hybrid format of a screenplay on stage was agreed upon between Brooks and Collier.

The Full Light of Day - Real Estate Bubble

The Full Light of Day - Real Estate Bubble

In the theatre lobby there were three physical representations of the play, each meant to connect your experience with the characters.  If you are planning to attend, come to the theatre early and submerse yourself in their toys!  I watched an older woman wearing virtual reality goggles.  She was seated on a hospital bed, reaching out aggressively while a technician wafted a glass bowl of ground coffee beans towards her.  This caused an even more focused response by the woman, who was amusingly still wearing her raincoat.

On Thursday, January 10th, director Kim Collier will be giving a Pre-Show Chat at 6:45pm, which would most certainly bring light to her vision for the play. 

We are fully submersed in the first week of January – we’re doing it!  Make sure to give yourself time to indulge yourself in experiences and wonder.  Follow those thoughts that lead to curiosity and see where they lead.  You may find yourself seated in a warm theatre, appreciating the sound of rustling leaves or walking through dimly lit alleys appreciating brick walls with a friend.