A unique Vancouver festival is returning for free from March 28 to May 28 with new works and previous offerings. Urban Ink and the Cultch launched TRANSFORM Cabaret Festival as a series of in-person performances in 2019. The first year of this Indigenous-led event featured more than a dozen shows, plus artists’ talks, workshops, and a cabaret club.
However, the pandemic forced TRANSFORM to go digital in 2020 and it has remained that way ever since. One of the more memorable shows that year was the late comedian and broadcaster Candy Palmater‘s The Candy Show.
In a video released in advance of TRANSFORM Cabaret Festival—the Digital Remix 2023, musical-theatre artist Corey Payette discusses how he envisioned the festival with his co-curator, Heather Redfern of the Cultch.
“It really started from a place of wanting to encourage the collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists—to create new works that we’ve never seen before that could be anything that they imagined them to be,” Payette says. “So that included circus. That included music, dance, theatre. It was all of aspects together to try to envision a way forward. And the way forward is together.”
TRANSFORM reprises The Candy Show
Palmater’s show is one of the 2020 events that will be available this year, along with the Opening Night Bash from that year. In addition, TRANSFORM will offer a reprise of a 2020 contemporary drag show by the nonbinary collective The Darlings.
Moreover, the festival will make another reprise available: the classical music–circus collaboration called Connective T/issue – Classical Cirque. Curated and hosted by Cris Derksen and Sido Adamson, the festival presented it in 2021.
Plus, there are a bunch of new shows, including a concert film, Guide My Way, by Payette. He’s a member of Mattagami First Nation with French Canadian and Irish ancestry.
It includes new music by Inuk singer-songwriter Kelly Fraser and local musicians Jason Sakaki, Chelsea Rose, and Merewyn Comeau, and a feature performance by Desirée Dawson. Payette augments this with dance choreographed by Shion Skye Carter.
Another new show is Kim Senkip Harvey’s Making The Mystics: An Artistic Ceremony Documentary, made with Green Thumb Theatre. “In Harvey’s signature style of fusing humour and hope, we are invited into intimate conversations, community places and cosmic spaces to honor the feisty fortitude of the Tsilhqot’in Nation,” Urban Ink and the Cultch say.
Shows from Down Under
TRANSFORM will also feature The War Being Waged by Manitoba’s Darla Contois. As well, there will be interdisciplinary cabaret and circus shows by Polytoxic from Australia (Demolition) and Aotearoa New Zealand’s Te Rēhia Theatre in partnership with the Dust Palace (the documentary Te Tangi ā te Tūī).
Musqueam actor Quelemia Sparrow is TRANSFORM’s protocol keeper.
“It’s been a phenomenal few years being part of this fantastic festival,” she declares in the video below. “A huge part of our protocol is how we connect and relate to other Indigenous nations.”
Redfern also makes an appearance in the video. Near the end, she reveals that in fall of 2023, there will be a special presentation. The goal will be to raise sufficient funds to return to live performances for TRANSFORM Cabaret Festival in the fall of 2024.
Watch the 10-minute launch video.