Review: Les Fourberies de Scapin in Quebec City

Review: Les Fourberies de Scapin in Quebec City

Review by Aileen Ruane,

Les Fourberies de Scapin at Salle Albert-Rousseau is a real treat for lovers of classical French theatre. It’s full of fast-paced, pithy dialogue, accompanied by even faster-paced acting. For such a classic piece of theatre, you would be forgiven for wondering in advance if it had anything new to offer, or if Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde could do something different in staging it for Quebec audiences of 2018. Fortunately, Carl Béchard’s production presents audiences with a genuinely delightful evening of what remains one of Molière’s most engaging, uproarious plays.

Béchard’s cast is as energetic as they come, which works well with Molière’s fantastical dialogues; led by André Robitaille as the eponymous Scapin, it seems as if the cast is in perpetual motion, constantly playing to the balcony seats (rather important, given the size of the theatre), fully embracing the commedia dell’arte tradition that inspired Molière. Of particular note is Zerbinette, played by a hilariously sassy Catherine Sénart – the fact that she can carry a laugh through an entire scene is remarkable. Indeed, the entire cast goes to great lengths to embody exaggerated character types. Sénart’s performance contrasts and complements nicely with Marie-Eve Beaulieu’s effervescent Hyacinte.

Folks who might be wary of classical French theatre can put those worries aside as this is an exceptionally physical production, frequently breaking the fourth wall. The latter is facilitated principally in two ways: the drummer situated stage left and the various winks to the audience from Scapin, Géronte, and others. In terms of physicality, the cast is anything but static. When Léandre (played with adorably awkward gentility by Simon Beaulé-Bulman) mistakenly tries to skewer Scapin, Octave (Sébastien René in an almost Beaker-esque turn – the high end of his vocal range is indeed comically impressive) tries to come to his rescue, only to be repeatedly lifted up and displaced by Léandre, as if the two actors were engaged in some sort of acrobatic tango, courtesy of Huy Phong Doan’s fight choreography.

Several scene changes are accompanied by musical interludes and choreography, adding a Broadway musical tone to the production. Carol Bergeron’s music helps to balance the dialogue, and Bernard Bourgault’s choreography complements it by not being too complex – Bourgault doesn’t turn Scapin into a dance show, but rather capitalizes on the physical nature of commedia dell’arte. The interaction between the drummer and the audience puts a unique spin on this production – during group dances, the drummer was on stage with the cast, seated behind a comically large drum kit. The most effective use of the drummer, however, was when he interacted with the cast from the side of the stage: providing sound effects (like using cowbell when a cowering Géronte tried to creep away from Scapin whilst hiding in a sack), and reactions (chimes and cymbals for key moments of realization).

It was a gratifying experience to know that TNM under Lorraine Pintal’s artistic direction stages classical French theatre in a way that honours its roots and traditions, but also is accessible and relevant to contemporary audiences.

Salle Albert-Rousseau is an excellent venue for productions such as this – expansive, but not intimidatingly so.

Les Fourberies de Scapin by Molière was directed by Carl Béchard as part of Les Sorties du TNM at Salle Albert-Rousseau on 19 March 2018. The production moves on to Gatineau for 23 and 24 March 2018.  Run-time is listed as two hours, plus an intermission.

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Categories: Arts & Culture, 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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