The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi: Larry Tremblay revises English in this ground breaking play

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Gaston Talbot, an elderly man from Chicoutimi, tells the story of his childhood the way he remembers it. Only, as he digs deeper into his past,  the story keeps on changing.

So does the leit-motif of the play “I travel a lot,” and with it,  Gaston’s motto, ”To keep in touch.”

As a sixteen years old boy, in search of friendship and a need to fit in, Gaston somehow lost himself. His childhood, spent in the nearby woods, ended in a terrifying experience, which left him unable to speak. He fell into a complete silence. Years later, a strange dream liberated him, so that he could finally tell his story. In doing so, he discovered that the self-alienation was so strong that he, who never knew a word of any language but French, could speak only in English, or, rather, in a French structure  expressed in English words.

By the end of the play, Gaston admits  us that he has never traveled, and that there was no one  with whom to keep in touch so he  is left only with the realization that the truth is difficult  to discover. 

The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi is a story about identity crisis and the fear of loosing oneself in a rapidly changing world. It might be perceived as a political play, mostly because of the sensitivity of the language topic in Canada. However, this phenomenon is not specific to this country nor Quebec. On the contrary, it is absolutely universal, – the simple truth about human nature, which easily feels threatened. All over the world individuals feel estranged in the midst of values and rules they do not accept or find it hard to fit in. There is a little bit of Gaston in each of us, whether we are part of a “dominant” culture trying desperately to prevent change, or part of a “minority” trying stay true to ourselves.

The play is originally a one-act monologue written by the internationally acclaimed writer Larry Tremblay. The director, Claude Poissant, makes it into a monologue for five voices, giving the story new depth and complexity. All elements of the play work well together: the set which consists of five boxes, the lights that artisticly distinguish the dream from the reality and mark the passage of time as well as the actors who perform superbly both in words and with movements. The narattive tells us the story, but the real Gaston, first a boy confused, afraid, lonely and later a grown-up man – a dragonfly captured in a box, pinned on the wall, without a hope, incapable of escape – is brought to life by  Caroline Laurin-Beaucage’s choreagraphy. The pantomime even surpassed the excellent verbal acting. The two forms complimented each other, each one expressing what the other could not. The  excellent work of the entire team makes “The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi” an exceptional artistic experience by a talented ensemble, a fusion of different media into a true masterpiece.

The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi

NAC French Theatre

by  Larry Tremblay

directed by Claude Poissant

stage design by Olivier Landreville

sound design by Eric Forget

CAST

Dany Boudreault, Patrice Dubois, Daniel Parent, Étienne Pilon and Mani Soleymanlou

a coproduction by the Théâtre Petit-à-Petit and by the

Festival TransAmérique (Montréal)

12 to 15 Octobre, 2011 at the National Arts Centre. 


Past Reviews