During the Vancouver Fringe Festival, I saw show called Feste at the Portuguese Club of Vancouver. I had heard about the show from my friend Morgan Brayton who learned about it at a festival media event; she also knows the actresses who wrote it.
My biggest concern about the show was it might be kind of “shrill” since Portuguese personalities tend to grate on your nerves (mine included). We’re not the most rational of European cultures.
Morgan and I went to the Feste, after she finished performing her own show Give It Up, (which I highly recommend). We were in line behind a three Portuguese women, all bottle-blondes that leaned closer to orange.
One of them said, “There are seven more of us coming so don’t get upset when they bud in front of you.”
This is a typical Portuguese pre-emptive move: preparing people disappointment. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they were part of the show.
Morgan and I struck up a conversation with the women immediately. I told them I was Portuguese and we discussed what little theatre is about the Portuguese experience—aside from The Portuguese Kids.
One of them asked me if I “Spoke” — meaning Portuguese. When I told her I didn’t, she sighed and gave me that disappointed look all Portuguese people give you when you haven’t learned the language.
I’ve been meaning to go to the PVOC for some time now. Friends have been telling me the food there is amazing. I just assumed it was a club where old Portuguese men go to get drunk and watch soccer
Morgan and I spilt 3-course meal for $25 and it was fucking amazing. I had the potato and kale soup and the rice pudding, or as Morgan put it, “Childhood in a bowl.”
The show itself was a collection of scenes from a Portuguese Feste—or festival. The ones I went to as a kid were always tied to the church that began with the parading of a statue of the local patron saint and ended with a banquet.
The show’s humour was very specific; I was worried Morgan wouldn’t be able to appreciate it. There were references only a Portuguese person would understand; like how Portuguese people refer to Canadians as “white” people; and how we’re expected to go the one Portuguese driving instructor; and that kale is a secret miracle food that “white” people are just discovering now.
The reference that rocked my world was to these little tiny raffle tickets you used to get; if the ticket had a number on it you would get a corresponding prize. The prizes were always some piece of shit that someone didn’t want, like a chipped wine glass or an old ceramic plate.
The show did an excellent job of portraying Portuguese/Canadian culture. The performers summed things up best when they said Portuguese people come from a village from where they knew everyone and moved to a country where they knew no one. The instinct is to stick to your own.
I called my sister the next day and told her about the show. We had a good laugh about the jokes, especially those damn raffle tickets.
We talked about how spoiled we were as kids and we didn’t even know it. Our mom always made our meals from scratch and but we were so obsessed with assimilating, we often turned our nose up at it and asked for Hamburger Helper.
We both regret we didn’t pay more attention to our parents in the kitchen and the garden because we would probably have our own businesses by now. “Mom is probably looking down on us and saying, I told you so.”
And mom would be right.
Growing up Portuguese was kind crazy, and a little embarrassing, but you forget how much fun it actually was until someone rubs it in your face.