The Meal cast photo

Candles are lit one by one as a small group of musicians play off to the side of the stage. A large table forms the centerpiece of the set. And for the next hour, we are transformed into a song cycle of gospel music that tells a story before and after The Last Supper.

Rick Maddocks’ The Meal is a short-run (three nights only) guest production on now at the Pacific Theatre. I caught the 10:30 late show last night with my husband, giving us the perfect opportunity to drown our sorrows from game two of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Four talented singers – John (Lucien Durey), Mary Magdalene (Jody Glenham), Thomas (Rick Maddocks) and Judas (Caleb Stull) – sit at a long dining table, mics in hand, singing and acting with passion while packing in a variety of musical styles. All 17 songs were written by Maddocks, with one exception, a collaboration between he and Justine Gabias (“This is No Room for Doubt“).

Jody Glenham
[Jody Glenham as Mary Magdalene]

The lighting was simple, and very effective, incorporating a collection of five lamps, spots, and smoke, to match both the mood and intensity of the songs.

The Meal cast photo
[Rick Maddocks, Jody Glenham, Lucien Durey, Corban Murdoch]

Vancouver’s Lost Gospel Ensemble is a secular group that challenges the boundaries of gospel music. It features four singers and a dynamic trio of drums, bass and organ, drawn from local indie pop, folk, alt-country and jazz scenes. I really enjoyed the collection of songs, especially “Fire, Sword and War“, a number in the second act that allows all four to beautifully harmonize and sing with conviction and passion.

There’s an eight piece choir in the background, set off from the centre of the stage, that chime in from time to time, and are sometimes lit, other times remain in the dark.

A waiter occasionally enters the scene, filling the glasses with wine, plates with bread, even handing out percussion instruments at one point. During the second act, he starts to clean up the table, signifying the end of the meal, which is never actually included in the production. The songs are inspired by the Gospels of John, Thomas, Judas and Mary Magdalene, as well as Luis Buñuel’s film The Exterminating Angel.

If you’re lucky enough to have gotten tickets for the remaining two shows today (2 pm matinee; 8 pm evening), consider it a blessing. It’s beautifully performed, showing the range of talent in this city.

Images courtesy of Robert Dewey.

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