’Tis the season for peace, goodwill and celebrating all that is good. So with that in mind, Times Colonist reviewers Adrian Chamberlain, Mike Devlin and Amy Smart present their awards for the best of Greater Victoria’s arts scene in 2012.
Royal B.C. Museum, Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Dec. 16, 2011-April 9, 2012. New show Dec. 1, 2012-April 1, 2013.
Here’s a game: Try to think of an art or photography show that you would recommend equally to children, snooty artistes and outdoorsmen. There’s about one in the world and it’s called the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Like high art? The quality’s there. Think animals are just plain bad-ass? Well, here they’re shown in all their glory.
— Amy Smart
Mike Delamont, McPherson Playhouse
The juicy journalistic angle was that Delamont, a humble usher at the McPherson Playhouse, had rented the venerable 800-seat venue for his grand comedy debut in our fair city.
A brave move indeed.
Delamont may do the occasional ushering gig at the Mac, but in truth, he is an experienced comic who has already amassed a sizable following in this and other cities. Not surprisingly, his show attracted a healthy crowd and — by all accounts — was just dandy.
— Adrian Chamberlain
LIFE-IN-THE SEMI-FAST-LANE AWARD
Joe Walsh, Bullen Park
The first concert event of its kind in Esquimalt was a certified success, despite the occasional hiccup (note to organizers: a lack of portable toilets is never a good thing). Funded in part by the Township of Esquimalt, the booking of Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh for an outdoor concert was a bold move. It paid off handsomely, with Walsh delivering a superb set highlighted by his incredible guitar prowess. In its first kick at large-scale concert promotion, Esquimalt hit one right out of Bullen Park.
— Mike Devlin
Theatre artist Tasha Diamant and colleagues staged a nude outdoor protest. Her notion is that nudity makes us vulnerable. And witnessing nude protests somehow encourages us to stop killing one another, polluting and other bad stuff. Or so Diamant believes.
The amazing thing was that the nudies in Centennial Square managed to convince at least one passerby — a man in his 20s — to join them in disrobing. And so belatedly we present him, and Tasha Diamant, with this prestigious honour.
THE HAVE-SONG-WILL-TRAVEL AWARD
John Prine, Alix Goolden Performance Hall
John Prine was probably a standout employee during his days as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, because in concert he always delivers. Prine proved once again that few are better in a live setting. When the 65-year-old native Chicagoan took to the stage at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall in May, a sold-out performance that enthralled his audience of devotees, he didn’t miss a beat.
THE SHIRLEY-VALENTINE-WE-HARDLY-KNEW-YE AWARD
May 15 to 19
Nicola Cavendish, a leading Canadian stage actress, delivered final performances of her most celebrated role in Victoria. She has performed Shirley Valentine 675-plus times over 22 years. It was a true honour to see Cavendish’s Shirley take her final bows in our town.
THE FAMILY-THAT-PLAYS- TOGETHER-DOESN’T-ALWAYS- STAY-TOGETHER AWARD
Loudon Wainwright III, Hermann’s Jazz Club
Tucked into a corner of a teeming Hermann’s Jazz Club in May was Loudon Wainwright III, a writer of such emotional accuracy, it almost felt like the capacity crowd was eavesdropping on a closed-door family meeting. Wainwright spent the bulk of his set talking or singing about his family, a delicate and fragile fraternity full of equally fine songwriters. Wainwright was a warts-and-all delight, proving that the family patriarch still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Neo-soul princess Janelle Monae touched down at TD Victoria International JazzFest this summer. She offered her bigsoul/electro-pop hit, Tightrope. We loved her immaculate tux, her sky-high pompadour and — most of all — her Jello-jointed James Brown dance moves.
THE GLASS-IS-HALF-FULL/ HALF-EMPTY AWARD
Snoop Dogg, Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre
I’m of two minds when it comes to Snoop Dogg’s hugely entertaining, massively problematic performance. The first, most damning knock against the rap legend was his lateness and brevity; after arriving on stage 45 minutes late, he delivered a pithy 50-minute set. Despite his arrogance — and the word on the street was that Snoop delayed his start because of a lively hotel room video-game session — his set was undeniable, full-out fun.
THE FAMILY-OF-PRODIGIES AWARDS
Nikki and Timothy Chooi
At 18 and 23, the Chooi brothers are the kind of unassuming, humble geniuses that make you look back on your own life accomplishments and feel bad about yourself. Among many other achievements this year, they both won the privilege of playing centuries-old violins, valued at $5 million each, for the next three years, since ranking at the top of a Canada Council contest. In October, they co-headlined a symphony show at Chicago’s Highland Park, which travels to the Edmonton Symphony in February.
Paul Destrooper, Ballet Victoria
Ballet Victoria artistic director Paul Destrooper doesn’t have an easy job. His main competition for audiences is the top-notch visiting troupes that pass through, from the National Ballet of Canada to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. But since taking charge five years ago, Destrooper has turned the once-floundering local company into a bona fide professional troupe, and in the 2011-12 season he expanded their commitment to an ambitious four shows. Among many other worthy recipients in Victoria, he was recognized with a well-deserved Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for his contributions this fall.
LONG-HAUL CURATION AWARD
The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, William Kurelek: The Messenger
May 25-Sept. 3
Mary Jo Hughes’ last hoorah as chief curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria was a killer one. William Kurelek: The Messenger, was the largest show of works done by one of Canada’s most popular artists. And beyond that, it showed the artists in a fresh light as moral messenger. Hughes began putting it together as senior curator at the Winnipeg Art Gallery — seven years later, it toured the country to great acclaim. Goes to show: Putting time into some things really pays off.
With less experience under their belts and less access to capital, emerging artists and curators have to think outside the box when it comes to making opportunity for themselves. Tara Hurst and Cameron Kidd did just that, with a temporary pop-up gallery in downtown Victoria — thanks to a grant from the Capital Regional District. Many emerging artists benefitted from the prime real estate, even if it was never meant to last. Here’s to making your own fortune.
THE IF-IT’S-SWEDISH-IT-MUST-BE-GOOD AWARD
The Hives, Club 9ONE9
The bar by which other concerts are measured — not just in Victoria, but worldwide — was raised long ago by Swedish rockers The Hives, whose Victoria debut was preceded by a smorgasbord of expectations. The group, led by the aptly titled Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, topped each and every one, thanks to a never-say-die set packed to the lid with rock ’n’ roll gesticulations.
Victoria’s Bettina May did a solid for burlesque performers everywhere, when she convinced U.S. immigration authorities that what she does is a valuable art form. The Brooklyn-based entertainer and pin-up model earned her U.S. Green Card as a “resident alien of extraordinary ability” — the first burlesque performer believed to do so — proving that like some scientists and athletes, she’s unique in her field.
THE BRASS-COJONES AWARD Graham McDonald of Theatre Inconnu
Oct. 5 to 20
A lead actor in David Harrower’s two-person drama, Blackbird, cancelled at the last minute. So Theatre Inconnu’s director, Graham McDonald, stepped in. And he did a surprisingly good job.
It was one of the bravest things I’ve seen in recent years. For fingernail-biting excitement, it’s hard to beat live theatre.
The Belfry Theatre was compelled to cancel a much-needed fundraiser. Government officials pointed out provincial regulations prohibited the auction of donated wine. (This odd because the Belfry previously held a wine auction without comment.)
Happily, Rich Coleman, minister responsible for alcohol, remedied the situation by immediately altering the antiquated law. Bully for him.
THE DON’T-STOP-BELIEVING’ AWARD
Journey with Loverboy and Night Ranger, Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre
The 1980s were alive and on fire during this terrific triple bill, a love-it or hate-it pomp-fest headlined by the Energizer bunny of arena rock, Journey. The surprise of the night was Loverboy, whose frontman, Mike Reno, showcased an incredibly healthy and wicked-sounding set of pipes. This was no one-horse steeplechase. Each act, to a man, gave the faithful precisely what they paid for — an arena-rock time machine.
© Copyright 2013