La Robe de Gulnara

DANIELLE SAVOIE is one of my fav’rit up’n’coming actors here in Ottawa, and has been ever since I saw her in Salamander Shakespeare’s THE DEATH OF TYBALT at the 2010 Ottawa Fringe Festival.  Since then I’ve seen her in ROMEO AND JULIET, RED NOSES, QUEEN FOR A DAY, 297 BAYVIEW CLINIC (it counts!), LA CIMITIERE DES VOITURES and A MIDWINTERS DREAM TALE, among others.  Coming soon you can catch her in Bear and Company‘s ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE (at this year’s Fringe) and AS YOU LIKE IT (touring parks later this summer).  I’ve had the pleasure of making Ms.Savoie’s acquaintance, and when I saw she was attending a recent French production I was dying to see, but couldn’t make it to, she graciously agreed to guest-review it for my humble blog.  Not only does this secure her spot as Visitorium Special Agent #2 (after Nadine Thornhill), it also makes her pretty kickass, in my opinion.  After you read this, you’ll think so too.  Sad to report the show has already completed its run, but isn’t it just a little bit cool to find out what you missed?


  – La Robe de Gulnara –

No, I am not the Visitorium. Yes, I am writing a review for the Visitorium blog. For a French play. A high school French play. Worried? Confused? Scared? Have no fear, I won’t take up much of your time, and the play was actually pretty darn good.

Last night I made my way over to my old high school, Béatrice-Desloges, to see LA ROBE DE GULNARA. It tells the story of two sisters, Mika (Amelie Lam) and Gulnara (Julie Malenfant), living in poverty in what is essentially a trailer park, in Azerbaijan. Gulnara spends her life savings on a beautiful wedding dress, which Mika promptly stains.  The rest of the play is a hilarious and tragic telling of the great lengths both Mika and Gulnara endure in order for Gulnara to have her dream wedding.


The cast for this play is huge, which can become confusing at times. But it also allows for brilliantly choreographed chorus pieces and truly beautiful images. There’s this one scene where Mika and her childhood friend, Mubaris (Zachary Blanchard), throw feathers in the air with white blankets and they play in it like it was snow. Stunning. Maybe it doesn’t sound like much written out like that, but it fucking was. Anyway. Even with a huge cast, the actors were all uniformly good. Though there were a few blocking mistakes, and admittedly, it is a high school production with high school actors, I was impressed with the quality of their acting. Though all the actors were good, I have to give a shout out to Lisa Gagnon, who played an elderly woman named Soviet, and Zachary Blanchard, whose character was aged 7. Playing characters so far away from your own age is extremely difficult and these guys did an awesome job of it. Bravo!

The script itself was very moving and heart wrenching, yet with just the right amount of humour. However, the beginning was a little slow to start and kind of choppy, but once it starts rolling, it really starts rolling. And the ending is fucking mind blowing. Helped along with the director, Danielle Jubinville, and her astonishing imagery and mise en scene for the last scene, I think it was difficult for even the toughest guy in the crowd to keep from bawling his eyes out.

Oh, also, the music was composed specifically for this production by Jean-Michel Ouimet. Usually music is just kind of a background thing that the audience doesn’t really notice, but in this production, the music becomes a character of its own. It was really beautiful, and if you are reading this Jean-Michel, I really wouldn’t mind getting a soundtrack. 😉

Overall, I had a great night out. You could really see the hard work, devotion, and hundreds of hours of blood, sweat, and tears, laid out on the stage for this 55 minute show. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, high school plays can kick ass too.

Danielle Savoie

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