Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Théâtre français  


Photo: Permission of the Théâtre La Catapulte

Marcel Dubé  is  one of those rare  playwrights   who left his mark on  Québécois  theatre in the 1950s, 60’s and 70’s  because of his tough  neo naturalistic  vision of the stage  that  was greatly influenced by American playwrights such as Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neil .  He was no doubt best known for  Un simple soldat (1958),  Les beaux dimanches (1968) and  Au retour des oies blanches  (1969).  Zone,  written in  1956 was first  translated into English is  1982. This version of Zone,  directed by Jean Stéphane Roy who is also the current artistic director of Théâtre La Catapulte has made some very minor changes in the text and  reorganized some scenes to correspond to his almost cinematographic vision of this production which is extremely powerful and   beautifully orchestrated from all perspectives.

The  setting is one of urban poverty and misery that have  lead to the bonding of a small group of young people attracted to their chief “Tarzan”. Tarzan organizes them  into his family of five  well-heeled cigarette smugglers driven to selling their wares because of their situation:   unhappiness at home and a sense of being excluded from society.   Neither  bandits, nor criminals, nor killers, they live by their own code of honour imposed by Tarzan who has “called” them to him and they are fiercely  loyal and respectful  of this man.  They all  hold regular jobs during the day, they normally don’t carry weapons and they meet in a tangle of metal beams, and building ruins, their headquarters, a metal-like frame that transforms itself into various spaces superbly lit by Guillaume Houët .

A border guard has been shot and the police  inspector, played with “gentle toughness” by  Richard J. Léger, brings them all in for interrogation to break their code of silence and find  out what happened that night on the American border.  The play shows the strength of the ties among the “gang” , the budding relationship between Tarzan and  Ciboulette, the only girl in the group, the betrayal of one “Passe-Partout”  and especially the manner in which the inspector interrogates the young people as he slowly breaks them all down to get the truth.

Those  scenes where the four young people are interrogated together, (Roy has telescoped the four encounters into one single scene which becomes the strongest moment  in the play) is quite a remarkable feat of staging as the questions are fired at the group in rapid succession and the answers spurt back  in a sort of fractured order that produces enormous tension and  even  rage  on the part of those young people. Each of the four  members of the group reveals his own particular personality under the stress of the  Inspectors words which take on a different tone as he confronts each character individually.  Even in this  dysfunctional chorus, the individual temperaments  are revealed  showing among other  things, that Roy is an effective director of actors who has channelled their  interpretations  in many different ways to produce perfectly lifelike figures  on stage.

The almost childish Moineau (Dave Jennis) with the harmonica  clinging to his mouth  is so disturbed  he can’t  help but weep his heart out.  Pass-Partout, (Maxine Lavoie)  his great physical presence, his flashy old fur coat, all help  personify a body possessed by a  raging ambition to replace the leader Tarzan. There is little Ciboulette (Frédérique Thérien), the tough little girl who handles herself very well among all those men but who is looking for love and not daring to declare how she feels about Tarzan;  Ti-Noir (Jean-Simon Traverse)  the future executive , well dressed with  meticulous   personal habits  is always wiping  dirt off his shoulders , And then  there is their ‘captain’, Tarzan played by Nicolas Desfossés . He incarnates  the furious  revolt against an unjust  society.  His revolt is pure, ready to go to the ultimate sacrifice for the good of them all,  an existentialist Jesus Christ who is almost a romantic.   Desfossés is a most exciting actor whose enormous energy and passion come pouring through the highlights of his role, whether he is arguing with the police inspector, whipping Passe-Partout for carrying a gun, or declaring his love for  Ciboulette, all the while knowing he must soon die.

This intensely exciting drama of the  back streets  of the big city  is not at all limited to one particular place or moment in time. It can easily be adapted to contemporary urban life in any contemporary  city where the city divides, excludes, crushes, creates barriers and destroys those who cannot survive within it. 

Here it’s the young people who are the victims and Jean-Stéphane Roy  has given us a most moving and beautiful interpretation of a drama, invaded by brief hallucinations , by several dreamlike sequences and menacing shadows that deform  the stage and send us right into the midst of a  Film Noir . This is a  talented director whose work  with the visual aspects of the stage as well as with actors, is exceptionally good.

Zone  will be playing at the Nouvelle Scène. For information call  613-241-27 27.  Performances with English surtitles on Thursdays

Directed by Jean Stéphane Roy

Set design : Dominic Manca

Lighting :  Guillaume Houet

Costumes: Nina Okens

Soundscape: jean-Michel Ouimet


Tarzan:  Nicolas Desfossés

Passee-partout   : Maxime Lavoie

Ciboulette :  Frédérique  Thérien

Moineau :  Dave Jenniss

Le chef : Richard J. Léger

Ti-Noir  Jean -Simon Traversy

Coproduced by  Théâtre Catapulte and  Théâtre français de Toronto

Based on the first performance given March 1, 2012. at La Nouvelle Scène.