Paul Shortt and Chris Gabel perform at Atomic Vaudeville's Halloween cabaret.

Paul Shortt and Chris Gabel perform at Atomic Vaudeville's Halloween cabaret.

Vaudeville enters the Canary Club

Atomic Vaudeville hosts speakeasy in support of their newest work, a collaboration with singer-songwriter Anne Schaefer

Wine bottles and chairs have been hurtled at the stage. The director was once pummelled with firm tomatoes. And then there are those nights when someone in the audience thinks they’re the stars of the show and continually yell out at the performers. An Atomic Vaudeville cabaret is definitely not a night at the Belfry, but the company has proven prowess with that, too.

“There’s certainly no fourth wall,” said Atomic Vaudeville’s artistic producer Britt Small of their seasonal cabarets at the Victoria Event Centre. “The audience is the last piece of the performance. The audience is complicit in the performance, and the audience can not only turn on you in a second, but they can take over.”

For 10 years Small, along with AV co-founder and director Jacob Richmond – who survived the ill-conceived tomato assault during his never-ending rendition of the Star Spangled Banner – have been redefining a night of theatre for Victoria audiences. Their shows have taught twisted after school special-style lessons, hosted by the likes of Ronald McDonald, Death, Sid Vicious and Osama Bin Laden and have featured the work of some 300 artists from the theatre, sketch and improv communities. Small and Richmond’s initial hope for the company? To create work for themselves in Victoria. Like any new undertaking, its longevity wasn’t expected.

“When the shows started to take off and the audience started to dig the show, that’s what made us keep doing it, because all of a sudden it didn’t feel like it was our show anymore, it was our community’s show and we had a responsibility to keep doing it,” Small said. “In our community, which is relatively small, it feels like a great gathering place. People from all different companies come and work with each other. Sometimes people meet at our shows and decide they want to do a project together. It’s kind of a great lab, where creative energies meet and spin off into other things.”

Their latest undertaking, an original production inspired by the music of singer-songwriter Anne Schaefer and her latest release, The Waiting Room, is following a similar path to Ride the Cyclone, an award-winning musical which toured the country earlier this year.

“The idea that’s explored is that of the lonely crowd,” Small said. “A waiting room being a place with people in transition, waiting to be somewhere else. It can be a place where there are a lot of people, but those people are rarely a community. Especially being on the Island, it does have such a community feel because of the size and relative isolation – the idea of the lonely crowd was interesting to us.”

To get audiences acquainted with the project – and to generate some funds for development with a playwright, Atomic Vaudeville is hosting a roaring ‘20s-themed speakeasy Nov. 28, from 7 to 11pm. The evening features performances by Schaefer, along with a line up of company regulars. Dubbed the Canary Club Speakeasy, Rifflandia Headquarters (1501 Douglas) will go Gatsby-era glam for an evening of cocktails, catering, and a chance to win uniquely Atomic Vaudeville prizes, such as dinner with Small and Richmond or singing telegrams from Hank and Lily.

Tickets, $50, are available at ticketrocket.org and include a year-long membership to the Atomic Vaudeville Society.

“The show has taught me a lot about theatre,” Small said. “It’s been interesting training ground for our company and thinking about what theatre is. A lot of people said it’s not real theatre. What do you mean? It’s the most real theatre in a way. It’s completely live and completely engages its audience. … For me now, when something unexpected happens on stage, it’s a gift because then you can riff off of it and the audience loves it because they know it’s happening in the moment and it’s very spontaneous.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus released their first joint album, <em>The Invasion</em>. (Photo courtesy Raymond Knight)
Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus release first joint album

Duo plan elaborate live-streamed CD release for ‘The Invasion’

Next month Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases his solo debut album, ‘Wildlife.’ (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases solo debut album

New record ‘Wildlife’ about taking chances and going through changes

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

A sample of some of Lou-ann Neel’s jewelry.
Lou-ann Neel wins the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art

Originally from Alert Bay, Neel’s family is steeped in renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artists

Most Read