Ghosts of the Plaza – a review

I’m not sure the exact amount of the City of  Victoria 150 grant received to help produce Ghosts of the Plaza (currently playing at the Oddfellows Lodge until November 24th) but, to my mind, it is money very well spent. This engaging interactive theatre production takes us behind the scenes of a once-much-loved local landmark (The Victoria Plaza Hotel) to tell the tales of local characters we don’t normally hear much about.

Ghosts of the Plaza is a short interactive theatre piece originally conceived by Sadie Forbes and Sarah Smith, once an employee of the hotel.

The producers have entered into collaboration with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and are using their fantastic historic hall (1315 Douglas Street) as a performance venue.  Thanks to the generosity of the Odd Fellows, who are not collecting rent, proceeds from the shows go to benefit PEERS.

Smith and Forbes have teamed up with burlesque artist and impresario Rosie Bitts (Best Bitts Productions), comedy diva and improviser extraordinaire Kirsten Van Ritzen (dramaturgy) and respected director Wendy Merk (Henry IV) to present a taut and entertaining series of vignettes that recount the glorious and dubious pasts of the hotel, from a triumphant start through periods of decline and renewal all the way to the present day.

The audience climbs stairs to the second floor, an area unknown to most of us. There’s already a sense of unease – Are we really welcome? What goes on behind these closed doors?  Our guide and ghostly narrator for the evening, (Alex Carroll), is attired in garb from the early 1900s (when the hotel was opened); silent ladies of the night usher us quietly into the main dining room.

A nervous reporter is here to interview the maître d’ Mr Martini (Derek Mohninger). It’s quaint to think of the society columns of the day, and realize that people haven’t changed much – we still want to know all the “cool” places to go.

Over time, the hotel loses its prominent place, and thus begins the downward trend, this slow slide to speakeasy, bordello, and bar as seen through the lives of the women (mainly) who inhabited it.

Maxine Fisher plays an early bar owner with lusty coyness and a voice to match.  I hope to hear more of her musical talents on local stages soon, as well as those of Elizabeth Marsh, whose singing was strong and sweet as a floozy, belly dancer, and 1960s flower child.

The talented and versatile cast (each playing multiple roles) have a lot of fun with the many periods – speakeasy, Arabian Nights themed bar, strip joint, hippie-era coffee house – including some wonderful musical and burlesque numbers, but there are periods of tragedy too.  The narrative arc transitions are helped by the physical movement from room to room. At times it’s plain silly fun, and audience members are complicit in the action, yet there is a certain respect for weightier moments, a pause to reflect.

Forbes and Smith elicited stories of the hotel for months as they were crafting their tale. We often hear “If only the walls could talk!” In this case, aided by creative team, cast and crew, they have.

Given the limited engagement and seating for this run, I can only hope there will be a remount.  It’s important to see history in this context. The City of Victoriais to be commended for launching the 150 People and Places: Addressing Arts and Culture Grant to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

There are only 40 tickets per performance of Ghosts of the Plaza, and only two days remaining.  Don’t be disappointed.

At last word, tickets were sold out, but you may be able to find some via social media channels. Check the Facebook page.

UPDATE November 23rd – a show has been added March 8, 2013 and ticket are now available online.

Ghosts of the Plaza

Friday November 23: Shows at 7:30pm and 9:00pm
Saturday November 24: Shows at
4:30pm, 7:30pm, and 9:00pm
Tickets (10-12$) online at:

Written by Sarah Smith and Sadie Forbes

Produced by Rosie Bitts, Best Bitts Productions. With Kirsten Van Ritzen as Dramaturge, stage direction by Wendy Merk, choreography by Sarah Smith, and music direction by Skye Downey.

The cast includes Amanda Butler, Alex Carroll, Maxine Fisher, Andre Gordon, Mark Marquette, Elizabeth Marsh, Derek Mohninger, Brayden Reger, Amanda Russell, Amy Williams, and Emily Yarnold.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary ticket to attend Ghosts of the Plaza.  I was not required to provide a review.  As always, I retain full editorial control over all the content posted on my blog.

About @lacouvee

Community Builder. Catalyst. Speaker. Writer. Arts Advocate.

Passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive change.

I truly believe that one person can make a difference and that we all have our own lives to live, creatively, while respecting the unique nature of others.


  1. Great news! We are remounting the show for March 8! Tickets available on line.


  1. […] After a sold-out run this past fall, Ghosts of the Plaza returns to tell us oft-forgotten and un-told tales of the denizens of the Plaza Hotel.  Given the hotel’s recent closure, and the new owners’ application for a development permit, this is one last chance to honour a fixture of downtown Victoria’s core.  From hey-day to sad decline, the stories are told with humour, compassion and talent.  Read my review here: […]

  2. […] actor, improviser and mother. Soul is her first solo show. I met Maxine when she performed in Ghosts of the Plaza in 2012 and was impressed with her lush voice. Onstage she brims with fun and enthusiasm, creating […]

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