Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: (Quebec City) Thérèse et Pierrette à l'ecole des Saints-Anges

The hidden side of religion: lust, power and more.
Trident offers a solid new adaptation of a Michel Tremblay novel
By Isabelle-Ann Charlebois
Power is the essence of Thérèse et Pierrette à l'École des Saints-Anges, a new adaptation by Serge Denoncourt of Michel Tremblay's novel about primary Catholic school in the 1940s - pre-Quiet Revolution. We can feel it through the trio of Thérèse, Pierrette and Simone and in their environment.  Also, just as the evening’s program states, the seven deadly sins are well represented in Gilles Champagne’s direction.
The Seven Deadly Sins

Wrath: Mother Benoite des Anges (Denise Verville) is marvellously vile; you feel her anger towards everyone who dares defy her.  Rage fills her soul, mind and body.  She loves to scold the pupils, especially the poor and weak ones.  She has no verbal restraint in regards to poor Simone (also know as Harelip) who she humiliates and degrades constantly. Mother Benoite des Anges also uses her extreme wickedness on her subordinates.   
Greed: Once again we go to Mother Benoite des Anges for illustration.  She knows that Simone’s family is poor but nevertheless paid for cosmetic surgery for her harelip.  Now Benoite wants to extract the price of the surgery from the child's hide.
Pride: Pride is everywhere except in Lucienne Boileau (Édith Patenaude) who would do anything to be the trios’ friend and be accepted by all.  The archetypal annoying braid chewer, Patenaude gives a refreshing rhythm to the play.  If  Lucienne is not prideful, she does show the deadly sin most of us have when we are in primary school: Envy.
Lust: Thérèse has a crush on a twisted adult, Gérard Bleau (Jean-Pierre Cloutier). Also, the play winks  at lust among the nuns ... 
Gluttony: Sister Sainte-Philomène (Éva Daigle) eats any time she can.  The play also compares poverty to the life of the clergy.
Sloth: From time to time a horrific, lazy fantasy cat (Patrick Ouellet) interacts with the mad four-year-old Marcel (André Robillard), Thérèse’s brother.  These scenes are among the few not fully realized.

All of these sins and stories weave together in a way that is as delightful as it is frightening and ultimately satisfying. Finally, if you were born in the 30’s or 40’s, it may bring back memories, if not, speak to any adult who went to a school ruled by nuns or brothers.

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