Review: Veda Hille’s Little Volcano Invokes Big Feels

One of my most shameful personal flaws is this (yes, we’re diving right in here): admiration and jealousy are inextricably linked. I can’t witness another individual’s achievement without getting a little bit peeved that I’m not the one doing the achieving. This is true for all things—sports, career, art, spelling bees. 

So on Friday night, as I livestreamed the opening of Veda Hille’s Little Volcano at the Cultch, totally in awe of her incredible musicality, I was also thinking about how I really wish I knew how to play an instrument. Seeing Hille’s hands dancing across the piano keys would make anyone regret not paying attention in grade 6 band. Especially certain someones (me) who picked the trumpet—a “boy instrument,” obviously— in a very misguided rejection of gender.

Intense jealousy aside, Little Volcano was a joy to behold. Musically, story-wise, even visually—no small feat for a live-streamed, one-woman show. The play (musical?) is a memoir of Hille’s greatest highs and lows, a collection of moments and memories from Vancouver and beyond. Through a combination of Bach, her own original songs, and other bits and bobs on a record player, Hille creates a world that is at times, very sad, but always filled with music.

There’s memories of her grandmother, school trips, medical issues, and her life partner (affectionately referred to as her “pony” in a really adorable extended metaphor). It bleeds with an effortless authenticity. The stories weave together in beautiful mess of lively piano and Hille’s incredible breath control (that’s a note from my sister, who didn’t fake her way through music class).

The tech wasn’t perfect—I haven’t seen a single true live stream that didn’t have a couple blips—but the majority of the performance came through well. Several cameras switched between recording close-ups, wides, and my favourite shots: Hille’s hands hammering away at the piano. 

It’s hard to find pandemic-era art that feels as legit as the “real thing,” and even virtually, this show is funny, emotional, and extremely touching. Little Volcano’s teeny-tiny run is now over, but I’d keep an eye on both the Cultch and Hille herself.