Normand Chaurette’ play Les Reines is one of the best examples of surrealism in literature. Inspired by Shakespeare’s play Richard III, he looks at the political events of the late fifteenth century in England from the women’s perspective.
The play starts at the end of the 15th century when the king of England, Edward IV, is dying. His death is followed by a succession of tragedies. In his greed for power, the future king, Richard III, is about to kill two sons of the queen Elizabeth. At that time, urged by their own aspiration for the throne, six queens, Queen Elizabeth, the Warick sisters Anne and Isabelle, Queen Margaret, Anne Dexter and the old Duchess of York, come to the castle. There, they live out their nightmares, fight for royal ambitions and struggle with personal terrors. Either as mothers, present or future queens or wives, they wrestle their own demons. Craving power, they are unable to separate the royal from the personal. Therefore, in the atmosphere of inevitable death and in their confusion and powerlessness to change destiny, they throw their fears at each other.
In his play, Normand Chaurette enters a rarely explored milieu in historical drama – a historical event from the women’s perspective, who, although limited by social standards of the period, might be very inventive when it comes to achieving their goals. These women are not the victims, but rather active players in the struggle for the crown. They are selfish, ruthless, deceiving, but they are also vulnerable as only women can be. Chaurette cuts open their hidden world in search for the ultimate motives of their reactions. Their reality is conflicting, a goal and the means to achieve it crash into each other leaving them bruised, as well as with dilemmas, grievances and regrets.
Director André Perrier captures the drama of these women superbly, entering their intimate world as if he is meant to be there. Each change in feeling, each conflict they might carry in themselves is depicted, not only through dialogues, but even more through the actress’ body language and facial expressions. Every compliment goes to the young actors who carry this enormous task with ease and professionalism.
Choreography is a key element in the execution. It goes where words cannot, depicting feelings and inner struggles beautifully. The basic but very functional set, as well as a skilfully designed lights, add to the picture of intertwined dreams and reality, creating a grotesque atmosphere and underlying surreal tone to the play.
Huge bravo for all actors and the artistic team! Les Rienes is a play worth any stage in Canada.
By Normand Chaurette
Production: Department of theatre, Ottawa University
Directed by André Perrier
Anne Warwick Virginie Charland
La Duchesse d’York Maude Charron-Leclerc
La reine Elisabeth Amélie Duguay
Anne Dexter Kiara Kiara-Lynn Néï
Isabelle Warwick Julie Malenfant
La reine Marguerite Alexandra Poblete