- Conceived by Stan Douglas
- Story by Chris Haddock and Stan Douglas
- Written by Chris Haddock
- A co-production with Canadian Stage, The Banff Centre, Stan Douglas Inc, Festival TransAmériques, and Canada's National Arts Centre
World Premiere Acclaimed visual artist Stan Douglas and screenwriter Chris Haddock (Da Vinci’s Inquest, Boardwalk Empire) bring you an intoxicating mixed-media spectacle set in the Vancouver of 1948. Visit the vanished worlds of the old Hotel Vancouver and Hogan’s Alley—the city’s hot spot for gambling and vice. Helen Lawrence is an intriguing, hard-boiled tale of loyalty and money that illuminates our city’s politics during a time of historic upheaval.
Running time: Approx. 95 minutes (no intermission)
"Wow…you’ve never seen anything that looks like this before" —J. Kelly Nestruck, The Globe and Mail
"Its technology dazzles, and the acting across the board is as good as anything seen here in years" —Jerry Wasserman, The Province
"Boldly, beautifully pushes theatrical boundaries" —Jo Ledingham, Vancouver Courier
"Absorbing and multi-layered…skillfully combines the merits of film and theatre" —Chris Lane, The Charlebois Post
"Truly a masterwork" —Kimberley Davison, Vancouver Vantage
"A visual and technical masterpiece" —Mark Robins, Vancouver Presents
"Helen Lawrence is not only clever but actually revolutionary" —JJ Brewis, Lords of Dogwood
"Just about perfect" —Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
"Brilliant and breathtaking in its boldness" —Baird Blackstone, Broken Leg Reviews
"Suspense is everywhere" —Roger Eberle, Review Vancouver
"Helen Lawrence a Vancouver-flavoured stage noir" —Mark Leiren-Young, The Vancouver Sun
"Play is a multimedia noir ‘who’s who’" —Stuart Derdeyn, The Province
"Helen Lawrence's dream team helms high-tech history" —Colin Thomas, The Georgia Straight
"Helen Lawrence digs into Vancouver's scandalous history at the Arts Club" —Christine Lyon, North Shore News
"State of the Arts: Helen Lawrence recreates Vancouver's gritty past" —Cheryl Rossi, The Vancouver Courier
"It’s a 3-D movie. It’s a film-noir play. It’s a great big, fingers-crossed experiment" —Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail
"The most highly anticipated new show in Canadian theatre" —J. Kelly Nestruck, The Globe and Mail
"It was fabulous! Great acting and brilliant idea. We loved the multi-media concept. Great photography, as well as perfect directing and coordination of the entire show!! Truly a remarkable experience!"
"Fabulous and very innovative. We really enjoyed the performance. We love how you always surprise us with something different. Keep up your amazing company. We decided after this performance to send you a donation"
"Thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and the backdrop of old Vancouver. Would highly recommend it to friends and family"
—Hank and Gail, Abbotsford
"It was truly amazing! I have never seen anything like it before. Keep up the good work"
"Such a unique presentation. Watch the actors on the stage or on the screen. Once you understand you can watch either, it is most enjoyable"
"Absolutely fabulous! The movie/ 3D effects took us onto the stage with the characters! We were amazed. We read some media coverage that made us think this was going to be too challenging to watch but it was absolutely the opposite. We peeked at the actors behind the curtain but only because we were fascinated how this was being projected. We were also impressed that the actors themselves were the camera operators between performances! Please consider more of this unique format again. Thank you"
—Susan and Carl, Surrey
"Best show of the Arts Club season. Perhaps the best production we have seen at any theatre in recent memory"
"Fantastic! While the picture overlaid over the actors was a new experience at first and a bit disconcerting—one didn't know where to look at, the actors or at the film—our eyes made the adjustment quickly and we very much enjoyed the show. The actors were wonderful. We really enjoyed the young girl playing Jo, but all of the actors put on a professional wonderful performance. I have been busy telling everyone they must go to Helen Lawrence!"
"Loved it! What a very clever way to tell a story! Was mesmerized throughout the whole play!"
—Ursula, Port Moody
"We loved it! Of course we were reminded of the outstanding Tear the Curtain from 2010 which we found groundbreaking! Please bring it back! Helen Lawrence was just as captivating in its own way. Great cast. So convincing when transposed back 66 years. We would encourage you to continue to support these more innovative productions"
—Chris and Nicole, North Vancouver
"Interesting perspective on post-war Vancouver. Loved the play as a movie!"
"A very unique experience with the blue screen. It must have been difficult for the actors to know where they were without any props. We enjoyed the play and the acting was very good. A very worthwhile enjoyable play"
"A unique experience. We loved it...loved it...loved it!!"
"I enjoyed the play. The actors were good and the lines spoken clearly. I liked that there was no intermission"
"Excellent! Very different production and the acting was outstanding"
—Linda, North Vancouver
"Excellent. Love the multi-media. Easy to watch the film but also loved the actors/actresses in the background put into the film. Brilliant. Well done. Still thought Tear the Curtain was amazing too"
"Excellent show. Very well done and authentic. Never seen multi-media production like this before. Brilliant acting, lighting, scenery, and atmosphere. I enjoyed it immensely"
—Susan, North Vancouver
"Visually stimulating, historically fascinating, with lots of relationships to keep it moving"
"I enjoyed it very much. It was a very clever production"
—Patricia, West Vancouver
"I loved this show. Exciting, fascinating experience. The actors are superb; the costumes, setting (while not a set) authentic. Thank you, and congratulations to all the creative geniuses who brought this to life"
—Anne, Port Coquitlam
"Blue Screen CGI goes Film Noir OMG. A crackling crescendo of aspiration and desperation set against Vancouver's hard-boiled secret history"
"An amazing performance by all. What a spectacular story told in an incredibly impactful way. Loved the music, the "film noir-esque" feel. The computer work to fill in the set and the background was mind-bogglingly real in a 40s movie way. And what a spine-tingling place to end! Have told many friends about it and will continue to sing the praises for this original work of art! Thanks for taking the risk. Well worth it. Will there be more?????"
"A fabulous production. The casting was perfection as the actors brought great lines to life. We also really felt that with the actors on stage and the close-ups of their expressions on screen, the intimacy of theatre was captured along with the full impact of emotion evidenced on the screen views of the actors faces and their more subtle body movements. One of the best!"
—Judi, New Westminster
"Excellent! Different, clever, entertaining an exceptional experience"
"I loved Helen Lawrence, I love the concept and enjoyed the previous one, Tear The Curtain I think it was. I was amazed at how in sync the actors were with the screen and enjoyed it even more because it was set in Vancouver. Great acting, and an incredible way of mixing medias"
"We loved it! Innovative, creative, and interesting. It was like watching a live movie with all the presence of live theatre combined with the simultaneous impact of close-up movie drama; the contrast of live colour and movie noir, un-cluttered live sets with dynamic, interactive backgrounds. Very cool. And the story was great. It was interesting, it kept us engaged, made us think to keep track and assemble the pieces. The characters were particularly well developed (although we didn't really get the purpose, in the story, of the German girl and her war-worn husband. The characters were interesting and added a bit of backstory, but overall they didn't seem to add much to the story, even though the parts were well-acted). We were impressed with the staging of course, and all the planning and technology that must have gone into it. We liked the balance among all the many characters, with none really taking the front spot (in fact the "lead" characters probably had the fewest lines) and each one getting an opportunity to show their acting stuff - and they all, every one, showed it well. Great acting, no doubt complicated by the dual roles of making it look good on stage at a distance while conveying the facial subtleties required by the big screen, all the while hitting their marks and coordinating with the multiple camera operators on stage with them. Well done. Overall, a very good performance and a triumphant premiere. Maybe even the start of a new genre"
"Fascination! It took a few minutes to get into the staging, and figure out how the screen and stage where communicating with each other. Truly imaginative and it certainly enhanced the production with the authentic backgrounds. Brilliant!"
"First time attending a play that has both live theatre and cinematic component, and enjoyed the experience tremendously. The actors were all superb. We had to change our show date, and was moved to a balcony seat that night instead of our regular seat on the floor, and I think it was a better location for viewing the cinematic component of the play. Highly recommended"
"Quite an artwork and amazing performance and performers. A multimedia art form that made my eyes and mind wander from the screen to the acting to the cameras. Thoroughly fascinating and in the end thought provoking"
"Wow! Really impressed. Innovative, great story line, unique and thoroughly enjoyable. For 95 minutes we were all immersed in some great theatre…. BRAVO Arts Club!"
"We rarely provide reviews, but this performance was exceptional and deserves to be talked about. The quality of the production, the superb acting by all members of the large cast, and the unbelievably effective use of new technology combining film with live acting made for the most exciting theater experience we have had anywhere for years! Arts Club is to be commended for bringing together such innovative theater for us to enjoy"
"The production of Helen Lawrence was a master class of theatre innovation. Together with the stellar performances from the actors and good writing, this show was throughly entertaining, from start to finish. One can only imagine the amount of time the whole crew had to dedicate to pull off this type of production. Therefore kudos to all involved and I for one would predict that this production, will be high on the nomination lists for the annual Canadian Theatre Awards, when they roll around. Congratulations and well done one and all"
"Amazing. The movie/play format took a bit to get used to. The actors/acting stupendous! Will highly recommend my friends and family attend the play. Keep up the good job of entertaining!"
"I loved this play seeing Vancouver in the 40s the time flew by I was so absorbed in the story line. Wonderful acting by all"
"Unique and fascinating. Very well done. I have already told several people"
"A fascinating presentation with many layers of entertainment piled on top of your traditional stage experience. To engage an audience simultaneously as a stage production and film elicits an intriguing but busy viewer evaluation of the story and its characters. The viewer can choose at any moment to see the stage version, sans props, and "zoom in" onto the projected image of the same action. The effect is mesmerizing. One can see the actors’ work up close, bringing an intimacy to the audience that can capture the senses in a way that pure stage productions can't. Following the plot becomes a bit more challenging, but delightfully so. Combining modern video technology with traditional stage is a genius idea that allows talent and audience to relate to each other in an entirely new way. The computer-generated sets composited with live action, and the black and white "film" treatment, are brilliantly appropriate to the story"
—Ron and Sue, Vancouver
"My husband and I both found this a very interesting experience. There was a real flavor of Vancouver in the 1940s with the use of black and white shots of old locations. For a while I wasn't quite sure where to look, at the actors or at the film, but soon I settled down to a satisfactory viewing of the event. I expect we will see more of this mixing of mediums and that each time it will become more creative and also more natural to watch"
"Loved the show. Not sure how it was done but loved the presentation"
—Florence, Port Moody
"Great show, original format and screenplay, very well-executed!"
"An edge-of-your-seat play with an innovative style that blurs the line between a great play and a terrific film. We really enjoyed it. Keep up the great work!"
"This was an amazing performance. I was rivetted to my seat and I don't remember breathing!!! Lisa is a stunning Helen, reminiscent of the smouldering blonde beauties of the past in those olden days of 'film noir.' Stan Douglas and Chris Haddock are to be congratulated on their vision and concept of events that took place in Vancouver during my lifetime and to package them in this exciting play. It is an important piece of work and I wish all of you who are in it, the very best reception that you could ever hope for, as you take this show on the road"
"A truly original presentation of the classic film noir. Excellent acting, direction and writing. The best I have seen this season, and that is saying a lot"
"WOW! Thoroughly entertaining. The camera work and acting were great! It looked like an old Hollywood movie with movie stars. A well-written play and very intriguing"
"This play had a fantastic pace, snappy lines, and filled with intrigue and power struggles common to ‘film noir.’ What is not to love? I have never seen a production like this before. It felt like we were watching the filming of a movie while seeing the finished product at the same time. I must take my hat off to the designers & camera crew for making the whole presentation seamless. The cast was awesome and heavy with TV veterans. My favorite role was played by Sterling Jarvis. Your close-ups made me feel your pain…not something I normally experience in live theatre. I wished your role was larger. Lisa Ryder: Like a good wine, you become better with each year! You delivered your role with such grace and with haunting eyes! This is the one production that was probably better to see from the balcony than my lower seats, but I will take a sore neck anytime to see this cast perform. It easily makes my top three for 2014!"
"Excellent acting; gripping story with me on the edge of my seat; fascinating and for me, unique staging; very glad I had the opportunity to see it. A show to remember!"
—Vince, Coquitlam "The three of us really enjoyed this performance. The multimedia was fascinating. I would recommend it for anyone"
—Mardi, New Westminster
"I have to be careful in this review not to give away too much, but just enough to convey how much I enjoyed this performance. The story itself is very interesting, set in Vancouver, 1948. It slowly dispenses pieces of a puzzle, including corrupt police and murder. Sometimes the line between "good" and "bad" characters are blurred, and I wasn't always sure whose side I was on, if you know what I mean. The story aside, the way in which it was delivered was one of the most interesting approaches I have had the pleasure to watch. From beginning to end I was captivated. Go see it. You'll be glad you did"
"A movie live on stage! Modern! Old! Brilliant!"
"First class! Best thing we've seen at the theatre in years. It was like watching a great movie, but live! Superbly acted and cast"
"Helen Lawrence is a triumph for the Arts Club and its two creators, Stan Douglas and Chris Haddock. Though rooted in the films noir of the 1940s, the play breaks entirely new ground with its innovative combination of video and live action. It was a very exciting and engrossing experience. The script and the acting hit exactly the right notes and it was wonderful to have a close-up view of all the subtle changes of the actors' facial expressions. The first night of previews went extremely well and I know the perfomances will only get better. Excellent job!"
"Excellent performance by all. Huge visuals on the screen were superb"
"Loved it, a welcome change from the typical theater format"
"I didn't have any preconceived ideas about the play. However, I walked out amazed at the ingenuity behind this masterpiece. It took awhile to understand what was happening on stage with real actors was simultaneously being broadcast in a black and white movie theatre format. I was mesmerized. I recommend this to anyone interested in experiencing a new technological experience in the arts, performed by outstanding actors"
—Christine, West Vancouver
"Very creative! The acting was superb…very exciting to see this new production and to see what happened. The show was excellent and deserves rave reviews"
"This meld of video and staging creates a dark and seamy narrative of a young and crude Vancouver. Helen Lawrence is set in the late '40s, on back alleys peopled by the desperate, and lonely, by gamblers, abortionists, prostitutes and bent cops. Complemented by a haunting soundtrack, the noir film is projected on an opaque scrim that allows the audience to see through to the actors performing in perfect sync with the story on the screen. Clever, complex, and simply told, it deserves a standing O every night"
"Very ambitious undertaking. Our group loved the ability to see the expressions on the actors' faces, especially since we were sitting in the back balcony! The acting was fabulous, as was the use of the archival film "sets." Some of us felt that seeing the actors moving around on stage and the cameras was distracted from the play as it was portrayed on film. Wonderful exploration of the interface between film and theatre"
"One of the best plays I have had the privilege of attending at the Stanley. Acting was excellent and the production as a film, with cast on the stage, was unique. The play's setting in the 40s and in Vancouver made the play particularly memorable and charming"
"Awesome. Very creative and interesting. Loved the echo and the doubling of images"
"My wife and I were totally engrossed by this performance. The unique style of delivery was, of course, what captured our attention. I particularly enjoyed being able to see the facial expressions so clearly with this format. Hope to see more of this style in the future"
"Very good use of mixed media to entice the audience to closely follow the action. The images enabled the company to show Vancouver in the 1940s and created a brooding atmosphere of change. The actors were excellent in keeping the tension at the forefront and. It was easy to identify with the characters despite the 60 odd years difference in time and culture. What I found most intriguing was the various camera angles and movement. It provided an added dimension to the action. Overall a very well done production and innovative approach"
"It was amazing, innovative, and absorbing! Well done!"
—Ray, North Vancouver
"Excellent play. Unlike the newspaper article it was very easy to follow. Well done production!!!"
"A wonderful idea, beautifully performed and executed. Interesting story line"
"An exciting stage presentation blending video and live acting as never seen before. Once I figured out what was going on I was totally immersed in the play/film till the end. Brilliantly acted and presented. A worthwhile see"
"I was very impressed with this play and thought it was expertly presented. I loved the film in front with the acting going on behind the screen. It was mentioned that the acting behind the screen could be distracting as you want to watch the actors and the film as it is going on however I did not find this a problem at all and loved this presentation style. I would recommend this play to everyone"
—Tyler, North Vancouver
"Loved it. Interesting staging. Actors great. Loved the close up pictures. Story line was well written. Old Vancouver was a fine history lesson. Well done again Stanley group"
—Mary Jane , Parksville
"Thoroughly enjoyed production. So creative and so different. The actors were wonderful and very professional. One of the best productions we have seen in all our years of attending. Congratulations"
- Conceived by Stan Douglas
- Story by Chris Haddock and Stan Douglas
- Written by Chris Haddock
- Starring Crystal Balint, Sterling Jarvis, Nicholas Lea, Allan Louis, Ava Markus, Hrothgar Mathews, Tom McBeath, Haley McGee, Mayko Nguyen, Gerard Plunkett, Lisa Ryder, Adam Kenneth Wilson
- Director Stan Douglas
- Associate Director Sarah Garton Stanley
- Dramaturgs Rachel Ditor and Matthew Jocelyn
- Set Designer Kevin McAllister
- Costume Designer Nancy Bryant
- Lighting Designer Robert Sondergaard
- Sound Designer John Gzowski
- Director of Photography Brian Johnson
- Video Programmer Peter Courtemanche
- 3D Production Designer Stan Douglas
- Lead 3D Artist Jonny Ostrem
- 3D Artists Trent Noble, Prajay Mehta, Martin Gilbert
- Stage Manager Jan Hodgson
- Assistant Stage Manager Peter Jotkus
- Apprentice Stage Manager Molly Pearson