Review: Incendies at Le Trident Theatre, Quebec City

Review: Incendies at Le Trident Theatre, Quebec City

Review by Aileen Ruane

Rien n’est plus beau que d’être ensemble” are the words spoken by Nawal Marwan, played by Nathalie Séguin, Véronika Makdissi-Warren and Lise Castonguay, via a letter to her son, capturing the experience of being in the audience, part of the theatre community. In a programme note from Le Trident Artistic Director Anne-Marie Olivier, echoed in the pre-show announcement, we are invited to experience this new staging of Wajdi Mouawad’s Incendies as balm for the horrors of this world, even here in Quebec.

From the chaos of a stage covered in overturned chairs, to the model villages representing bombings and attacks, to the final cathartic release of a rain shower on stage, Marie-Josée Bastien’s staging of Incendies succeeds as entertaining theatre, as well as thought-provoking drama. Mouawad’s complex text, divided into 38 scenes, transcends time and place, and indeed space, to create a world where a shattered past asserts itself in the present, at times even overlapping with it. This is a major challenge to stage, but one over which the entire cast and production team of Le Trident handily triumphs in an emotional marathon of a production.

Sonoyo Nishikawa’s lights are evocative, suggesting office spaces, distant villages, and prison cells. The lighting and props blend seamlessly with Stéphane Caron’s music, which punctuates the scenes and creates a kind of break from the unflinching realism of the production: shovels against plastic buckets become gunfire, model villages and buses locate the violence of civil war. Sébastien Dionne’s costumes suggest temporal fluidity, which is appropriate given the fact that the three actresses playing Nawal at various ages are all dressed similarly, allowing for continuity in the midst of chaos.

Mouawad’s text in Bastien’s able hands is not for the faint of heart. The subject matter is as brutal as it gets: ancient grudges that burst into endless cycles of violence, rape as a weapon, and an apathy/ignorance that, in lieu of breaking this cycle, seems only to further internalize it. The struggle to understand this is fiercely embodied in actors Sarah Villeneuve-Desjardins and Charles-Étienne Beaulne as twins Jeanne and Simon Marwan. Brother and sister are tasked with the impossible: deliver two letters written by their recently deceased mother, Nawal, to the father they never met and the brother they never knew they had. To the solve this mystery, mathematician Jeanne and amateur boxer Simon engage in journeys both exterior and interior, encountering former prison guards, villagers, nurses, and more, leading to a shocking climax.

The cast deserves credit individually, but standouts are Gabriel Fournier and Réjean Vallée. Fournier’s Nihad explodes onto the stage in a burst of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” and The Police’s “Roxanne”, disturbing the haunting piano interludes and the hollow drone of the electronic themes. Vallée as the notary Hermile Lebel, at times comic and heartbreaking, is another talent amongst an outstanding cast, where everyone embodies multiple roles. Castonguay, Séguin, and Makdissi-Warren’s Nawal is the heart here, and will leave audiences speechless with their courage and compassion.

The merits of this production are consistent with the quality expected at Le Trident, but this is a play that you must experience for yourself with friends, because there truly is nothing better than being together.

Incendies by Wajdi Mouawad runs until 31 March 2018 at the Grand Théâtre. 2 hours 20 minutes without intermission.

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Categories: Arts & Culture, News, Reviews

About Author

Aileen Ruane

Aileen Ruane is a doctoral candidate in Études littéraires at Université Laval. She received an MA in French Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a BA in Theatre Studies and French from Kent State University. Her research primarily concerns the concepts of performativity, identity, and alterity in Québécois translations of Irish theatre. She was a founding member of Blackbird Theatre Company in Chicago. She also teaches Irish dance at Violon Vert here in Quebec City.

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