Pi Theatre, Vancouver, October 2011
Produced to celebrate Vancouver's 125th anniversary, The Thin Veneer
looked at what it meant to be a citizen of the city during the Stanley Cup riots of 2011.
The play was performed antiphonally by four actors in a series of short statements.
Each one represented a different section of the public - the ice hockey fan, the police officer, a woman and an immigrant
mother. All of them were happy to live in the city and devoted to its traditions; environmentally speaking, it represented
a pleasant change from other cities in Canada and elsewhere. The Stanley Cup ice hockey match was a major occasion; rather
like a soccer match in Great Britain, it was the focus of attention for the majority of the community.
But in 2011 matters got out of hand. What started off as a minor disorder soon descended
into a full-scale riot, similar to that experienced by Londoners in the same year. Shops were looted; cars set on fire; police
officers attacked; it seemed that anarchy had descended upon the city. While the four speakers were horrified by what happened,
they reacted to it in different ways; the woman in particular took advantage of the chaos to loot a shop in search of the
kind of consumer goods she could never have acquired in the normal run of things.
Inevitably the speakers looked for reasons why the riot occurred, but could not come
up with anything other than the cliched ideas offered by most people after an experience of civil disorder (poverty, discontent,
social divisions, etc). Loring suggested that the Vancouver riot was a spontaneous event, that could not be adequately accounted
for; what it did prove, however, was that the civilized facade sustained by most citizens could rapidly be destroyed.
Starkly performed by a cast including Carmen Aguirre, Patrick Keating, Jennifer Mawhinney
and Shaker Paleja, The Thin Veneer touched the nerves of anyone unfortunate enough to witness civil disorder,
irrespective of place. The director was Richard Wolfe.