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Fringe Review: A Nightmare On East Hastings: A Comedy

By Livia Belcea on June 15, 2018

Image courtesy of Ottawa Fringe Festival

A Nightmare On East Hastings: A Comedy
by Bill Pats
Bessie-Jean Productions

60 min / Comedy, Solo, Storytelling / Mature

Bill Pats moved from Winnipeg to Vancouver’s notoriously dangerous and poor Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, after a criminal conviction and a broken relationship. Single, suicidal and teetering on hopelessness, he rents out a small Single Room Occupancy (SRO) unit and starts to rebuild his life. After working a few hospitality and acting gigs, he secures a position as the property manager of the building he lives in. By vividly recalling personal anecdotes from his time managing the SROs, Bill offers the audience a rare, uncensored account of what it’s like to live in one of Canada’s worse neighbourhoods. From having to remove pests and vermin to trying to help young people struggling with mental health and addiction problems to facing criminals and even death, Bill got a lot more than he signed up for as a building manager.

Through his experience dealing with drugs, crime, poverty, prostitution, misery and police, Bill seems to find a renewed sense of self and purpose in life, which lead him to stand before audiences and expose parts of Canadian society most of us will never see.

A good storyteller, Bill captivates his audience best when he recalls the stories that hold a large emotional space for him. The flow and structure of the story is disturbed throughout the performance, and the comedic aspect eluded me. Sure, there are jokes here and there, but the general mood of the performance and particularly the storyline will not necessarily elicit laughter.

The show is true to its name and just like Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, A Nightmare on East Hastings is dark and rough around the edges. Nonetheless, it is so raw, expressive and unedited that it succeeds at delivering a powerful and desperate message that illustrates Vancouver’s serious drug, crime and homelessness problems, and the stories of the people who are weaved within their fabric.

The show contains vulgar language and graphic descriptions that may offend some audience members and trigger memories of traumatic events. If you’re up for all this, Bill’s fascinating story is worth hearing, and will undoubtedly have you reflect on social and political issues we often tend to ignore.


A Nightmare On East Hastings by Bill Pats is being performed at LIVE! on Elgin (220 Elgin St) until Sunday June 24, 2018. Tickets Cost $12. Visit ottawafringe.com for the schedule and box office info.


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