PuSh Festival 2017 engages community with the wow factor

PuSh Festival 2017 features Third World Bunfight's Macbeth.

PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

Jan. 16 to Feb. 5, 2017


various Vancouver venues


: From $103 at


From African adaptations of Italian operas on Shakespeare classics, to investigations into mechanical erotica or the music of Frank Zappa performed by a 30-piece orchestra, the lineup for the 2017 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival reinforces the mid-winter event’s reputation for multi-disciplinary performance on the cutting edges.

At a launch event at the Fox Cabaret Monday night, highlights of the 13th annual edition of the immensely popular arts celebration were announced. Full schedules can be found



Among the artists representing 11 countries is a sizable contingent from the United Kingdom. Is PuSh benefiting from the post-Brexit pound crash?

“It’s due to a partnership that we have with an organization called Caravan, which represents new British-devised work in theatre, and some dance,” said PuSh artistic and executive director Norman Armour.

“They reached out — to us, to Shanghai 


with some exceptional pieces such as Wallflower (Quarantine) about memories of dances; Backstage in Biscuit Land from Touretteshero, which is a remarkable work about a truly unique syndrome; and a serious play for youth about anorexia called Mess, co-produced with the Vancouver International Children’s Festival.”

Ever the catalyst for introducing difficult topics to diverse audiences, Armour says he feels that this year’s PuSh Festival will be particularly valuable for developing dialogues around such difficult topics as depression, isolation and how we view community engagement.

It’s not anywhere you catch something like South Korean artist Geumhyoung Jeong’s show Oil Pressure Vibrator, about pursuing self-satisfaction from an industrial excavator.

“A fascinating artist who was here once before during the 2010 Live Bienale, whose work is very playful, mischievous and kind of hard to read; as in “how do I position this?” he said. “She is a real mover on the international circuit whose work is, obviously, quite singular. You really have never seen anything like it.”

This is part and parcel of what has built such solid audiences for the festival. But it isn’t all just avant-garde. There’s Verdi’s Macbeth, for instance, albeit a unique vision. Produced by South Africa’s Third World Bunfight, this interpretation of the classical work envisions a setting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with modern day trappings and a subversive storyline complete with a regionally influenced revised score.

“Talk about not mincing words, Brett Bailey is someone to be reckoned with, who has done things such as a musical on (former Ugandan president) Idi Amin, and this is big,” said Armour. “It fit beautifully with collaborating for the first time with Vancouver Opera, and it’s going to rock the house.”

But it is Black Arm Band (Australia) bringing dirtsong that may be the biggest buzz of 2017’s event. Part documentary, part collaborative musical performance, this celebration of Australian indigenous artists, presented with Coastal Jazz, has developed into a full blown multicultural experience. CDm2 Lightworks, the Australian High Commission, Full Circle: First Nations Performance, and local musical support are all involved in the expansive and topical presentation.

“Dirtsong was a commissioned work that came out of Australia’s Truth and Reconciliation Hearings process, and when it played at an arts event I was at earlier, there were 40 different American artists representatives lining up afterwards to present it,” Armour says. “Like


last year, this is going to be the “big event” night I think.”

 Dirtsong is a celebration of Australian indigenous artists.

And that is just the performances. There is also the Club Push roster, PuSh Assembly for industry insiders, and other contributing parties. Copies of the 64-page program guide are available in limited quantities at JJ Bean, Choices Markets and other select locations or online at pushfestival.ca.

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