I went to see Michel Tremblay’s Les Belles-Soeurs at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond. Written in 1965, this is Tremblay’s most popular work. It first opened on August 28, 1968 at Théâtre Du Rideau. A landmark on many fronts his use of the Quebec joual – the language of the working people. Quebecois started to come out with their art and language, making themselves known around Quebec and the world. This play was written as an act of protest against the oppressive English elite and Catholic Church who dominated Quebec life and culture for 300 years.
Two women sit on chairs on stage playing Quebec Folk Music on the accordion. They are everyday ordinary housewives of the 1960’s. A wind fall of a million stamps brings 15 women together around a kitchen table knitting their lives and views. Hate, jealousy, greed, theft, judgment are elements still relevant in 2018. We all still judge, hate and get jealous. Faith makes and breaks the women in this story.
The cast is exceptional. Agnes Tong from The Romeo Section plays Lise Paquette. Emilie Leclerc from Les Filles Du Roi earlier this year is brilliant in the role of Pierette Guerrin. However, my favourite character Angéline Sauvé was played by Kerry Sandomirsky who has done two other productions of Les Belle-Soeurs. The fridge, stove, tables, and cross make it clear this is a working class family with not much money.
I am French Canadian. I was born in Montreal, Quebec. I left in 1992. I did not grow up with the joual except through Quebec’s classic tv show Passe-Partout. This play brings out the richness of every day people who struggle to survive.
Gateway Theatre is easily accessible by public transit. Les Belles-Soeurs by Ruby Slippers Theatre runs 28 September to 6 October 2018.
~ reviewed by Tara K. Torme
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