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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Love Games

Nathan Raine
Published Thursday February 5, 04:13 pm
La Troupe’s latest presents a classic piece of French theatre


Studio 914

Runs to Sunday 8

La Troupe du Jour has always been committed to community, to offering French-language theatre in Saskatoon, and to engaging with the city’s Anglophone population as well — and all three of those goals are well-represented in their upcoming production of Pierre Marivaux's classic French play The Game of Love and Chance.

Marivaux's play is an 18th-century situation-comedy based on a classic trope: a young woman named Silvia is to marry a young man whom she’s never met, but she insists to her father that she be allowed to check him out from a safe distance by switching places with her maid. The catch is that her suitor, Dorante, has had the same idea and shows up disguised as his valet. Class barriers are crossed and intertwined as the disguised characters fall in love with one another.

For their production of the play, La Troupe’s artistic director Denis Rouleau decided to set The Game during the roaring ‘20s — an era when both young people in general and women in particular were beginning to be more assertive, he says.

“In the play the young woman, Silvia, she’s not naïve at all; she's direct, she is strong-willed and wants to do things a certain way,” says Rouleau. “In the ‘20s, I think women were starting to take their place: They were more liberal and progressive. The ‘20s were an era where people wanted to have fun after the war. Young people were more liberal, they were having fun, and so I thought that was a time that really stuck out — it’s completely appropriate for this particular play.”

The Game is full of humour and wit, but the production isn't a cakewalk to execute. Even though the setting has been updated to the ‘20s, Marivaux's dialogue remains in its original — and artfully complex — state. It’s a challenge, says Rouleau, but the result is well worth it.

“It's very important to remain faithful to the play,” he says. “We haven't cut it or changed it; we’re doing exactly Marivaux's play. They don't talk like we talk, so for the actors to put that language in their mouth and speak, it’s very different. It’s very well-written — every line is a masterpiece of writing. But the language is very different for us to speak.”

Coupled with the dialogue is the challenge of performing the play while synced to English surtitles — a challenge, though, that should be rewarding in its capacity to bring out a broader audience.

“La Troupe du Jour has been here for 29 years now, so of course it is always a challenge to try to [continue to] attract people to a play in French,” says Rouleau. “Yes the surtitles are a challenge, [and] the challenge for the actors is the language. Also, with the actors, you have to find the comedy in the body.”

The production itself is a community play, with non-professional actors doing it simply for the love of theatre. One of those actors, Roger Gauthier (who plays Monsieur Orgon), has been involved with La Troupe de Jour for going on 20 years, and considers community theatre nothing short of a miracle.

“For me, the theatre is like a miracle place. You can incarnate someone who’s entirely different from your own character. It's the best experience I've had in my life — the greatest challenge I've had, but the one that is also the most satisfying,” says Gauthier.

Gauthier is also looking forward to the task of acting with surtitles — especially when the reward is the opportunity to expose a wider audience to a classic piece of French theatre.

“La Troupe du Jour has found away to go outside the circle of the Francophone [community] via putting surtitles on the play. This play is probably the first time that surtitles will be used for a community play here, so for us it's a challenge because we have to say things to time and be very precise,” says Gauthier. “But with surtitles, that means that we can reach a much larger audience. The Francophone community, we aren’t homogenous — so to get friends, relatives [and others] who are also Anglophones to see us in a totally different light, will be great.”

Along with the surtitles, the physical comedy of the play will allow a broad audience in Saskatoon to experience something they aren’t normally exposed to.

“Even if you don't understand the [spoken] language, there’s so much that is being communicated through gesture and through body language,” says Rouleau. “It's still a pleasure to watch a play even if it's in another language. And it's just a question of sharing something from another culture.”

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