‘Helen Lawrence, Vancouver Confidential’ – A 1942 Noir Adventure

As part of our Christmas prezzies, Widderson and Widderdaughter-In-Law presented us with two tickets to any show under the umbrella of The ArtsClub our little hearts desired.

We perused the offerings and chose Helen Lawrence mostly because it was set in a period in Vancouver’s history that Mrs Widds is researching for one of her novels. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. And decided on a matinee because neither of us fancied driving home to Widder island in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain.

We girded our loins with thermoses of tea and cheese sammiches and drove through the pelting rain, that hopefully heralds the beginning of spring, into Vancouver. Parking, which is notoriously nasty, especially if you don’t want to part with your hard earned loonies and toonies, turned out to be a breeze. We circled the block around the theatre exactly one and a half times before we found the perfect spot.

The rain poured heavier. Almost as heavy as I saw it rain as a child, where the first huge splats would raise miniature dust storms on the desiccated land … but that’s a story for another time.

Because we have Plans for later on in the year, (yes, they are such important plans that they warrant a capital ‘P’) we’re saving every loonie and toonie we can, so we devoured our cheese sammiches and thermoses of tea as we waited for the show to start rather than swan into the nearest cafe for sustenance. We didn’t dine in the theatre foyer, that would’ve been too outré even for us.


... from the cover of the program ... cool, eh?

… from the cover of the program … cool, eh?

Imagine you are watching a movie in which the director has to get the shot in one take, not only that, it has to be filmed in real time, in front of a live audience. Each actor not only has to deliver their lines impeccably (which they did), they also have to hit their marks precisely in order to be in sync with the pre-recorded backgrounds they are projected into, and to provide the close-up cameras with the appropriate shot. The actors also have to perform to the live audience as well as the camera, which as any actor will tell you require two completely different kettles of coloured horses.

Helen Lawrence is noir at its finest, understated and yet able to pack a punch that’ll leave you breathless. It’s a simple concept … a dame comes to Vancouver’s rougher side in 1948, looking for the man who done her wrong. Helen, the residents of the hotel she stays in, and the residents of Hogan’s Alley nearby, all have secrets that slowly come unraveled.

And it was that slow unraveling that hooked my attention and held it for almost the entire hour-and-a-half show. (Apart from the technical wizardry of the whole shebang) It could’ve been trimmed a little just before the grand finale, but that’s a picking of nits in an otherwise spectacular theater experience.

The hint of a romance between the youthful ‘Artful Dodger’, Julie, and the world weary Helen, reflects an aspect of our (LGBTQ) experience with media at the moment that is gradually evolving, (an aspect that has perhaps contributed to the success of shows like Lost Girl whatever you may think of the insanity they laughingly call plot continuity) where the gender identification of the characters is the least important aspect of the story; it’s the story itself that matters. Although, personally, I thought it was a very nice touch 😀

If you’d like the nuts and bolts information and details about the cast and crew and the production, Google Helen Lawrence (the play, not the singer) or visit the play’s homepage at The Artsclub.

After it finishes it’s run in Vancouver the show will be touring all over the place. Go see it.


This interview with the two leads will give you an idea of the complexity of the production, and how beautifully it translated to the ‘big screen’.


Hat tip to David Cooper

Hat tip to David Cooper