THEATRE REVIEW: Brief Encounters 21

Taylor Partel & Marguerite Witvoet. Kyla Bailey Photography

Brief Encounters 21 takes place deep down in the bowels of Vancouver’s underground- otherwise known as Guilt & Co., in Gastown. Five performances, each with two artists (who have never met!) must create a new work for this three day event.

Since its inception eight years ago, the Brief Encounters series has presented more than 254 artists in 134 pieces. In Brief Encounters, artists from a range of mediums receive only two weeks to work with their assigned partner and hammer out their creative offering. Inspiring, entertaining, sometimes challenging, and always surprising, the Brief Encounters formula has made it a twice-yearly favourite of artists and sold-out crowds alike.

David Newberry & Nyla Carpentier. Kyla Bailey Photography

David Newberry & Nyla Carpentier. Kyla Bailey Photography

Some of the performers CV’s are perplexing- how exactly are a ‘beverage alchemist’ and a composer going to create a show together? You would be surprised at what happens when you put two artists in a room together for two weeks and have them make their magic. Each performance opens with a short video of both performers introducing each other to the audience and talking about the process of creating a piece together. These videos offer insight into the creation process and a chance to see the behind the scenes relationship that has grown between each of the performers through their time together.

With “Preparatory Exercises for the End of the World”, visual artist Laiwan and theatre artist Georgina Beaty start the evening off with a bang; mixing visual imagery with debate & questionnaires, Laiwan and Beaty break down the fourth wall and bring the audience in.

The upbeat “Elixer of Life” brings beverage alchemist Taylor Partel and composer Marguerite Witvoet to the stage as traveling salespeople, hoping to swindle people out of big money for their wondrous beverage. Partel mentions in the opening video that he doesn’t have any theatre background, but you wouldn’t know it from watching this performance.

Floyd VB & Shizuka Kai. Kyla Bailey Photography

Floyd VB & Shizuka Kai. Kyla Bailey Photography

David Newberry and Nyla Carpentier blend music and powow dance in their moving performance “Equating Echoes”. The cohesion of these two performers works wonders as Newberry’s music moves through Carpentier’s dance, telling a story of loss and joy.

Slam poet Floyd VB and puppeteer Shizuka Kai left the audience wanting more with their performance “Felt is not Feeling”, where human and puppet alike bemoan the awful feeling of feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. Floyd VB really lets loose in their performance, and it really makes me want to see them in a slam poetry show, like right now.

The great thing about shows like this is being introduced to new artists, and seeing them do what they do best up on stage. You can tell each and every one of them has a huge passion for their work, and it really shows. So pull up a chair and grab a beer, Brief Encounters is here for your perfect laid back inspired evening.

Brief Encounters 21 runs May 8-10 at Guilt & Co. (1 Alexander Street, Gastown, Vancouver). Doors open at 7:00pm; the show begins at 7:30pm. Tickets are $20-$35 in advance at and at the door (cash only). Please note: this is a 19+ event. For more information, visit

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Megan Gray Megan is an Arts & Culture Contributor for Vancity Buzz and Vancouver based marketing & publicity specialist and event coordinator.

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