Vancouver picks up the Wrecking Ball and runs with it

Well, that rocked. Vancouver’s Wrecking Ball, which opened with an all-party debate on the arts and then moved into a cabaret of political theatre, went off tonight with a bang, and judging from the amount and enthusiasm of the attendees, was a good indication of a freshly politicized artistic front.

The anti-Harper sentiment in the Stanley Theatre was palpable, it hung heavy in the air like smoke from the wings. The place was packed for the start of the debate, which was gently and efficiently moderated by Hal Wake, Artistic Director of the Vancouver International Writer’s and Reader’s Festival, who delivered questions submitted by members of our arts community. All four Federal parties were represented, only three of them were from from Vancouver Centre. Conservative candidate Lorne Mayencourt declined to attend, so John Cummins from Delta-Richmond East filled in the gap. Fortunately the crowd’s dissension consisted mainly of a few audience members voicing their displeasure at his party’s policies and some persistent hissing in response to his somewhat repetetive responses. Despite some rather cheeky verbal policy sparring between the candidates everyone was reasonably polite and well-behaved. Peter Birnie delivers a comprehensive play-by-play here.

Moderator Hal Wake watches Michael Byers (NDP), Adriane Carr (Green), John Cummins (Con) and Hedy Fry (Lib) administer a vigorous pandering to the crowd
Moderator Hal Wake watches Michael Byers (NDP), Adriane Carr (Green), John Cummins (Con) and Hedy Fry (Lib) administer a vigorous pandering to the crowd

From there the night was turned over to Spirit of the West’s John Mann and local actor and theatreist Jonathon Young, and the Wrecking Ball was in full swing. Some highlights:

Mann and Young Master the Ceremonies

Writer Alex Ferguson delivered a Buddhist koan to Mr. Harper, tounge firmly in cheek

Us, on the phone with the Victoria Wrecking Ball. Uplink provided by the technological wizardry of Jonathon Young.

Rick Dobran as Harper’s assistant, Kevin McNulty as Harper in Lucia Frangioni’s ‘The Ordinary Canadian’. Directed by Michèle Lonsdale Smith. Best line: “With all due respect sir, Jesus wouldn’t vote for you”.

Local punk legend Joey “Shithead” Keithley ripped into the night with a kind of ‘DOA Unplugged’ set. And killed it. Damn, but can this man still tear up a guitar.

David Bloom reads Judith Thompson’s ‘Nail biter’, a stunning new monologue about the Omar Khadr case, a Canadian citizen arrested at 15 on suspicion of murdering an American soldier in Afghanistan. A provocative and predictably meaty piece.

Michael Turner (Hard Core Logo) wrote ‘A Two-Hander’ for the party. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Jonathon Young play Stephen Harper. (Shown here with actor Laara Sadiq.) The sweater vest was one of four ‘authentic and autographed’ Harper sweaters he was giving away to the crowd.

Bill Richardson of the CBC had agreed to write a piece for the night, but Mann announced that he had canceled due to the CBC policy of ‘remaining at arm’s length from anything political.’ Boo. In its place to end the night was a epically sarcastic bit of cabaret called ‘Extraordinary People’, written by Allison Badger (I think), and directed by the Arts Club’s Bill Millerd, set at one of our typical gala artist soirees, darling. You know, the kind we’re always frequenting with our gobs of cash and privilege.

Allan Morgan and Katie Wright

Jennifer Lyon and Bill Dow

It was an honour to be among that crowd and those artists tonight, and it feels like something’s started rolling. I, for one, think we need a whole lot more of this kind of thing. Anyone else have any thoughts or stories around the first nation-wide Wrecking Ball?


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this evening. The forum was very informative. The Wrecking Ball Cabaret was BRILLIANT.

  2. This was an incredible event – as a young artist, I feel like I will emerge into an arts community with more unity, fight, and fire than ever before. It was actually quite moving to see the seats at the Stanley quickly fill up, with the crowd starting to assembly by the doorways and sit on the stairs. Equally thrilling was hearing these politicians wax poetic on the value of art – and even believing some of it! Not to mention the fantastic Wrecking Ball entertainment. The rather foxy Jonathan Young and John Mann were excellent hosts for the evening. All in all an exciting night of politics and passion – bravo!

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