All posts by Vance Brews

Review: The Video Game Show (Bad Dog Theatre Company)

Retro 8-bit gaming blends with rapid-fire improv in The Video Game Show at Toronto’s Comedy Bar

I love video games. Ever since I was a kid I loved sitting in front of a screen and making pixelated characters run around fantastic environments, saving worlds using only my finely honed hand-eye coordination and wits. In today’s modern world, “Interactive Storytelling” has become a constant in our daily lives, which makes Bad Dog Theatre Company‘s Video Game Show an almost inevitable occurrence. Really though, is it surprising? Improv theatre is the most interactive of stage performances (short of the audience getting up and doing it themselves) and blends easily with the interactive soul of gaming; it’s a wonder it hasn’t been explored more often.

Upon arriving at Comedy Bar for the performance, I was immediately struck by the choice in décor the company made in the Main Stage area; dark lighting, lots of tinfoil and neon lights all framing a projected image of the demo program of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) port of Contra. It felt like I’d gone back to an early 90’s arcade, and aside from having some trouble getting around due to the near-darkness I already found myself getting into the mood for some 8-bit fun.

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Review: n00b (Young People’s Theatre)

Perfect for Family Day, n00b is a story of teen addiction to video games, at Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre

In today’s digital world, the analogue universe of theatre seems anachronistic. All too often playwrights seem to avoid technology as a theme, choosing to let the multi-million dollar world of film and television explore such concepts. Those that do choose to embrace technology on the stage often come across as latecomers, cashing in on trends that have long since passed, making their stories quaint at best or obsolete at worst. Going into Vertigo Theatre‘s production of n00b at Young People’s Theatre I found myself considering these obstacles, alongside the concern anyone pushing 30 might have of going into a production advertised “For ages 9 and up”.

It is truly a delight to say that my worries were almost completely unfounded. Calgary-based Vertigo Theatre has clearly recognized that Christopher Duthie’s script is about far more than simply “pwning n00bs”. The story of a teenager running away from home after his parents dismantle his gaming console when it takes over his life is rife with explorations of themes like the importance of belonging, the need for recognition from one’s peers and the constant struggle for balance and identity in a world that is still trying to find its own in the second decade of the 21st Century.

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