PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

How to Fail as a Popstar by Vivek Shraya

When & Where February 1 & 2 at7:30pm | Performance Works

Performer Vivek Shraya

Reviewer John Jane

Vivek Shraya shows us how to make a success of failure in her self-described theatrical memoire How to Fail as a PopStar. Shraya was born in Edmonton to immigrant parents who had their share of financial struggles. Her first exposure to performing was singing Bhajan prayers in front of her Hindi community.

Shraya, now a trans-female, was something of an outlier at school. Though, as she now explains in a synthesis of music, storytelling and a little humour she did her best to fit in. She survived by learning to sing pop songs to impress fellow students, and went so far as to enter voice competitions in local shopping malls.

Shraya does actually possess a reasonably pleasant singing voice and could have done without the pre-recorded rhythm tracks that accompanied the earlier songs in the show. Eventually, according to her narrative, she connected with others who thought they could help direct her career towards pop stardom including Tegan Quin (of Tegan and Sara). Unfortunately, some of these relationships turned out to be little short of a nightmare - like the producer who turned her first album into a personal vanity project at a cost of twenty grand of her own hard-earned money, and the abusive manager whose Mississauga home she had to ultimately escape from.

Shraya steps on the raised stage wearing a tied at the neck gold cape that only partially covers a short black jumpsuit - the gold cape is soon discarded. The minimalist set consists of a circle of light, a stool and a guitar that only gets taken from its stand once during the entire performance.

Shraya, by her own expectations, may have failed in her pursuit of being a pop idol, but certainly not as an entertainer. She ends the show on a poignant note, relating a list of forty reasons why she thinks she failed. Only a few seemed valid, while most, well, just excuses.

Vivek Shraya doesn't mention it during the show, but she is currently a director on the board of The Tegan and Sara Foundation.

© 2022 John Jane