Theatre review: Montreal production of Angelique engrossing, inventive

Angélique

By Lorena Gale

Co-produced by Black Theatre Workshop and Tableau D’Hôte Theatre, presented by NAC English Theatre 

To March 31, Asper Theatre, National Arts Centre

Tickets & instances: nac-cna.ca

Reviewed Friday

If you imagine Canada was at all times a sanctuary of freedom for slaves, Angélique shall be an eye fixed opener. Set in Montreal within the 1730s, the play tells the true story of Marie-Josèph Angélique, a Portuguese-born black slave who was tortured and executed for arson after an enormous fireplace destroyed half of town.

Did she do it? The proof was flimsy, as we study on this model of occasions crafted by the late playwright Lorena Gale, who died in 2009. But in specializing in the day-to-day life of a slave in Old Montreal, she sheds gentle on a degree of cruelty and oppression that might make anybody dream of scorching the earth behind them as they fled.

Co-produced by two Montreal theatre firms (Black Theatre Workshop and Tableau D’Hôte Theatre) and directed by Mike Payette, the title position is performed with nice emotional depth by Jenny Brizard, who has a luminous stage presence and plain grace to her bodily expression, whether or not she’s pitching snowballs, scrubbing laundry or demonstrating the dance steps of her village.

The story begins when the rich, smug François (Karl Graboshas) purchases Angélique for 800 kilos, supposedly as a present to make issues simpler for his spouse, Therèse (France Rolland), who has been grieving the loss of life of their younger daughter for years.

With a bearing reminiscent of a Trump inheritor, François is a totally distasteful character who considers Angelique his property; her hopes and desires for a greater life in New France are rapidly dashed when it turns into clear that he purchased her to not help his spouse round the home however to fulfill his lustful urges.

At the identical time, a love triangle varieties between Angélique, a French-Canadian servant named Claude (Olivier Lamarche), and one other black slave, Cesar (Omari Newton), making a subplot that explores the sophisticated points of love, loyalty and race. Finding hope in despair lends objective to those relationships.

Meanwhile, Therèse’s rising jealousy provokes her to beat Angélique, the violence depicted by way of music. Yes, a dwell band — the implausible Sixstrum Percussion Ensemble — is an integral half of the production, stationed on the second degree of the spectacular wood set. Their taking part in not solely enhances the strain, but in addition underscores some of essentially the most dramatic moments with an exciting cacophony of sounds.

Perhaps the nastiest character is Ignace, François’s good friend and enterprise accomplice, who personifies each white privilege and poisonous masculinity in his remedy of slaves and disdain for ladies. Played by Chip Chuipka, his superior perspective will make your eyes roll and abdomen flip.

The play runs about 90 minutes, with out intermission, the narrative move sometimes diverted by spoken-word monologues that recall the rhythmic pulse of slam poetry. It’s not a contented story by any stretch, however it’s engrossing, the overall heaviness of the subject material delivered with a measured dose of humour.

Also important is the shifting time line. Although set within the 18th-century, sudden references to modern-day conveniences like vacuum cleaners and Mercedes-Benz automobiles carry the message that white supremacy didn’t finish with the abolition of slavery. The ultimate scene, for instance, finds Angelique in an orange jumpsuit, reminding us that black ladies — and folks of color usually — are nonetheless disproportionately represented in at the moment’s jail populations.

In the tip, the sturdy characters, inventive script and very good staging add as much as a compelling piece of historic fiction that succeeds in making a social subject related to up to date audiences. 

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