Gonna be a busy week…just realized it’s the first of the month and I haven’t prepped my stoopid ‘coming up’ post yet, so I got THAT to get to. But I suppose first things are, as always, first, and I should likely ramble and rave about the show I saw just last night before looking ahead. Especially when there’s so much goodness to look back on!
I was definitely looking forward to the show last night…it was a bit of French theatre for one thing, always a pleasure, even if my Anglo ears sometimes have trouble keeping up. This one was from the kids at Vanier’s le Theatre Tremplin (in association with Theatre la Catapulte), who brought their funky Franco HAMLET to bear last year in Studio Leonard-Beaulne, where this year’s offering also took place. The show this time around was Marc LeMyre’s LE PROJET TURANDOT, originally performed at la Nouvelle Scene back in 2001, if I’m remembering correctly. Inspired by the legend of Turandot (made most famous by Puccini’s opera, and seen just last year in Ottawa U’s cool production PRINCESS T), the story follows a cold and cruel princess who steadfastly refuses to take a suitor. LeMyre’s script plays whimsically with this premise, throwing a secret love affair into the mix, and director Benoit Roy amps up the absurdity level to make this a mighty fun TURANDOT indeed.
We meet up with the titular Princess (Chantal Tokarsky, all dolled up and reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland) as she’s romping with her secret love, high-strung Mandarine (Heloise Drouin), evading Turandot’s Father the King (Catherine Caron) and trying to figure out how to get out of his demands that the Princess take a husband. Turandot has a plan, however, and while it’s a bit radical, Mandarine eventually comes on board. Part of it includes getting some dupe to answer her questions three and become her groom…I think (I might have missed some crucial parts of the text at this junction, but we’ll just carry on and pretend everything’s normal, okay? Okay.). All of this leads to a lot of dramatics, shouting, occasional visits from a pair of weirdos in a box (Tania St.Jean and Marc-Andre Tessier, almost stealing the show), at least one inspired musical solo, and a wise and mysterious sage (Nicolas Tremblay-Foisy) who just might hold the key to the whole mess.
Even as someone who misses the odd word here and there, this is a ridiculously fun show that plays out like the best kind of children’s theatre (there were several little ones in the audience opening night, and I definitely recommend it for young AND old), with a colorful set, great costumes from Annie Cloutier and a gorgeous soundscape by Venessa Lachance. Chantal Tokarsky is a perfectly charming and self-centered leading lady, barely able to express affection for anyone besides herself. Something that clearly annoys the heck out of lovably fierce Mandarine, aka Heloise Drouin, very nicely balancing doting affection with barely restrained rage. Catherine Drouin is just goddam marvellous as the dotty King, likewise Nicolas Tremblay Foisy as the deliberately obscure Sage (both of them sport smashing beards worth the price of admission all by themselves). And Sylvain Sabatie as clueless but manly Calaf is a wonderful jolt to the show, like a child’s idea of what a Prince should be. It all adds up, combined with Roy’s direction and LeMyre’s funny text, into a joy of a show that breezes by all too quickly in an hour and a half. I liked it so much I’ll even test my French for the occasion….PROJET TURANDOT est un joyeux spectacle…drole et absurde dans les meilleur facons. Si tu n’a pas un souris sur ton visage durant cette production, je pense que ta bouche ne fonctionne plus.
Translation: GO SEE IT. You’ll be glad you did. Playing until the 10th at SLB! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)
PS apologies for my French up there if it’s completely terrible. Taking baby steps over here.