I just walked out of Bomb-itty of Errors and ran towards my digital desk to pen this missive. Vancouver, please DON’T go and see this play. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt so alienated, disillusioned or disappointed in a Vancouver production.
Bomb-itty prides itself on being a modern day Shakespeare adaptation, set to a hip-hop beat. Instead, it mocks the Bard’s memory and worth by putting on such a production of errors.
A fast-paced, musical “ad-rap-tation” of Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identities, this show infuses Elizabethan times with hip-hop flavour. The actors sing, rap, and rhyme catchy and laugh-out-loud songsthat retain much of the Bard’s original text—all while a DJ spins original music onstage. The tale involves not one but two sets of twins who grow up unaware of his zygote-mate’s existence, but, fear not, their lives will indeed intersect in hilarious and madcap ways. It’s a comedy, after all.
Shakespeare’s works ring true almost 500 years later, because his characters are identifiable and relatable to all of us. The women may be shrews, but that’s not the only reason why we’re so enraptured with the Bard’s storytelling. His characters were complex, multifaceted people, which is one of the reasons why Shakespeare’s legacy endures to this day.
Bomb-itty strips the works of their cultural context without carrying over any of the original wit. This is a production catering to the lowest common denominator, something of a bizarre cross between New Kids on the Block and The Bachelor. There’s nothing new to Bomb-itty, nothing fresh in the ideas or execution that might have made this production work.
Might. Over the hour I spent in the theatre, I can’t think of a single marginalized audience that wasn’t ridiculed and stereotyped. Count ’em:
- Weak-willed women
- Dumb-as-posts women
- Fat shaming
- Sexual deviancy
- LGBT people
- Prison rape victims
Right about now, you can argue that it’s all in good fun and tongue-in-cheek humour. But when the audience is laughing solely for shock value, and there’s nothing new or innovative to say about these stereotypes but point out, “Hey, these stereotypes exist! Isn’t that a riot?” Shakespeare’s rhyming commentary came out of his insightful perceptions of sixteenth century society – and the problems that came with it. Bomb-itty is, in contrast, woefully out of touch with its intended audience, as well as its own inherent self-worth as theatre worth producing.
I question The Arts Club’s selection process in bringing this particular production to its Revue Stage. I’ve always admired the Art Club’s delicate balancing act of bringing new works to the mainstream. But really, why did this particular production make the cut? Are they so desperate to appeal to younger audiences that they’re throwing things like good judgement and taste out the window? I truly hope this is a misguided programming blip on their record. I could do well without this ‘modernization’ attempt, as could a good chunk of my row – we all ended up walking out at the same time.
There’s nothing new to glean from Bomb-itty but this: women are whores, Jews have funny accents and customs, prison rape jokes are effin’ hilarious. If Bomb-itty had its way, then we really haven’t made any progress since Shakespeare’s time.
The Bomb-itty of Errors plays at The Arts Club Revue Stage until May 10. More information here.