The works of Canadian playwright Michel Tremblay have always taken on a progressive and barrier-pushing nature. Upon hearing that Theatre Erindale was to tackle one of Tremblays most intense and suggestive plays, I was immediately intrigued.
Bonjour, lÃ , bonjour (1974) is a compelling story to watch. The complexities of each characters emotions are so dysfunctional that I found myself squirming in my seat. The play showcases Tremblays ability to meld both sensitivity and perversion to create a deeply moving piece of dramatic work. Theatre Erindales take on Bonjour, lÃ , Bonjour, directed by Terry Tweed, successfully manages to present the same struggle and confusion that is central to the plays essence.
Set in 1970s Montréal, the play begins with a young man, Serge (Bryn Dewar), returning home to his family after setting out on a headclearing trip through Europe. When Serge returns he is once again confronted with the same problems and confusion that forced him to leave in the first place. His ailing father Armand (Andy Ingram) lives with his two decrepit aunts, Gilberte (Bridget Mantha) and Charlotte (Jenn Sartor), who, instead of possessing the intrinsic wisdom that comes with age, are drowning in selfpity and desperateness. Aside from his familial elders, Serge has four older sisters who all carry their own cumbersome baggage.
Not long after his return, Serge is confronted by each of his sisters who, although all different from one another, share in their love for him. Lucienne (Danielle Ayow), Serges oldest sister, turns to Serge for consolation and assistance in her extra-marital affair. Denise (Jess Phelan) and Monique (Laura Macdonald) are both emotional wrecks who also use Serge as a sounding-board for their insecurities and suspicions. And then theres Nicole (Kate Conway) who lives with Serge and is his biggest comfort and closest relation.
At times implied, and at others explicit, we see that Serges sisters have an unhealthy, quasi-incestuous (and sometimes all out incestuous) attraction to their little brother. Serge, amidst his four sisters desperation and desires and his fathers continuously diminishing health, tries to cope with the pressures and stresses that he has returned to.
The production consists of tight, intertwining dialogue and action that seems to connect each relationship clearly and with just the right amount of emphasis placed on each exchange. As much as the content is heavy and intense, there are several moments of comedy that are executed immaculately and provide a much needed momentary escape from the characters many despairs.
Tweeds ability to direct such a coherent production in light of such rapid exchanges and movement is impressive. She manages to invoke a sense of urgency which parallels the desire and haste of the productions characters. This is complemented by Patrick Youngs set design, which is considerably minimalist, but allows for the narratives distinct fluidity.
The ensemble was superb with stellar performances from the actors, all fourth-year students. Bryn Dewar and Andy Ingram deliver first-rate performances, providing incredibly moving father and son moments that helped give the production both coherence and closure.
But the night belonged to the ladies who all gave incredible performances. Particular mention goes to Danielle Ayow and Laura MacDonald. Both managed to flawlessly bring their characters erratic behaviour to the forefront of the play, and were thrilling to watch at their emotional peak.
Theatre Erindales presentation of Bonjour, lÃ , Bonjour was a pleasure to watch. While some may find the content startling, it delivers much more than a simple shock. Much more.