Entertainment Local

All aboard for majestic performance and dazzling displays in False Creek

By Zoe Grams

The Caravan Stage Company presents Nomadic Tempest: A Climatopian Spectacle, which runs Aug. 15 to Sept. 3. (Tom Kramer Photo)

The Caravan Stage Company presents Nomadic Tempest: A Climatopian Spectacle, which runs Aug. 15 to Sept. 3. (Tom Kramer Photo)

False Creek is no stranger to spectacle.

Every day of the summer a pirate ship replete with water cannons sails into the bay with eager, play-acting children aboard. Throughout the year, its shores are home to big top circus acts, from Cirque du Soleil to Cavalia.

It feels appropriate then, that Caravan Stage Company tie these two traditions together in a show that promises to be equal parts delightful, wondrous and strange. “Nomadic Tempest: A Climatopian Spectacle” is nothing short of an experimental circus rock opera set aboard a 90-foot tall theatre ship.

Part of The City of Vancouver’s Canada 150 celebrations, Nomadic Tempest runs until Sept. 3 on the east side of False Creek just south of Cambie Street Bridge. The site opens at 8 p.m., with the show starting at 9:25 p.m. - an hour after sunset.

Set in 2040, the show contemplates the increasingly critical plight of climate change, depicting a world in which coastal cities have drowned and millions of climate refugees face an uncertain existence. Their stories are represented by four monarch butterflies: aerial artists who dive and float amidst the sails and deck of the ship.

That ship is a replica of a Thames River Sailing Barge, adapted specially for performances on the shore and combining modern marine and theatre technology, including self-lowering masts that allow for access to almost any waterfront, and rigging specially designed for light and sound equipment.

For this show, the ship is decked with huge sails upon which shadow puppetry and evocative artwork are projected, and a thin stage amidst the rigging, featuring fantastical, steampunk-like props. Performers move seamlessly between each architectural feature of the ship: playing on the stage, the deck, on masts (performance poles), or ribbons streaming to the ground.

It takes a remarkable company to conceive of — never mind pull off — such a multimedia work of art. Caravan Stage Company have both the experience and vision for it. Founded in 1970 in Vancouver by Paul Kirby and Adriana Kelder, the company started as a mobile puppet show, touring Vancouver Island with a one-horse wagon.

From this modest beginning, they expanded to a company of more than 25 actors and acrobats, pulled by Clydesdale horses in six large carts. Photos from the time could be from the 1970s or 1870s. In 1993, the company set their sights on a new “venue” and the tall ship was created.

As of today, the Amara Zee — as their ship is named — has sailed around the globe, bringing circus and art to Canadian communities on rivers and waterways, and such far-flung locales as Sicily, Greece, and Croatia. She made her homeward voyage to Vancouver in July, avoiding a hurricane on the waves of the Pacific to arrive safely on dock.

Rarely does unbridled creativity wash up in such a joyful, timely performance. Get your tickets early for this fantastic boat of magic.

Tickets for Nomadic Temple are free but limited. Further information, and bookings, at www.caravanstage.org.