The work opens with six performers standing on the perimeter of a bare stage, flanked by assorted bricks, blocks, banker’s boxes, piles of sand, and other materials. Slowly, they pick up twigs and sticks and begin to lay out lines on the floor; equally slowly, these begin to resemble the lines of a map.
About five minutes in, most viewers will go, “Oh!”
It’s a map of Vancouver.
Ten minutes in, though, that reaction will shift to “Oh, no!” as it becomes clear that the performers are going to build, with painful deliberation, a scale model of our city, taking it through its transformation from scattered First Nations settlements to the steel-and-glass urban centre it is today. And that, to a soundtrack that includes Native chants, scattered historical reminiscences, and Diana Krall singing “The Look of Love”, is what they do.
This takes just over an hour. It feels like forever.
But the biggest shock of recognition comes from looking at Giamatti's deeply flawed Barney and spotting a bit of ourselves gazing back.