What's found in translation
Director Emma Tibaldo takes cross-cultural approach in The Flood ThereafterBY PAT DONNELLY, THE GAZETTEOCTOBER 15, 2010
|Director Emma Tibaldo (left) works with a performer during a rehearsal of play The Flood Thereafter on Thursday October 14, 2010. Photograph by: Pierre Obendrauf, The Gazette|
Talisman Theatre was born to build bridges. Its mandate is to introduce new French-language Quebec plays to anglophone audiences via translation.
The company's latest work, The Flood Thereafter (Le Deluge apres), by Sarah Berthiaume, translated into English by Nadine Desrochers, opens tonight at Theatre La Chapelle.
It tells a tale inspired by the sad and sordid reality of women who work in Quebec's numerous small-town strip bars. The subject has long fascinated director Emma Tibaldo.
"The thing that intrigued me about the play is that it looked at something that I've always wondered about, going down the highway from Montreal to P.E.I.," Tibaldo said. "In these small towns, you see a very normal-looking building with a sign that says, "Danseuses nu." It's not in your face, but there's stripping going on in this little village."
Obviously, the clientele has to be local fathers, uncles and grandfathers. So what if one of the girls who work in the bar happens to be local, too? Since groups of dancers tend to tour, this wouldn't be all that likely. Still, "I really wondered about the life of a young woman who strips in these towns," Tibaldo said. "There's not the anonymity that there is in a big city."
In Berthiaume, Tibaldo, who is also the artistic and executive director of Playwrights' Workshop Montreal, found a kindred soul, of a younger generation, who was asking the same questions.
The Flood Thereafter, however, doesn't deal in strip-bar realism. "The whole play is wrapped in a myth, which is the Odyssey and/or The Mermaid," she said. "So the play works on two levels."
In The Flood Thereafter, June, the exotic dancer who makes men weep, is part mermaid.
The metaphorical title has definite biblical (Noah and the Ark) overtones, she added. The play is about what gets swept away and what survives.
Berthiaume is a young, recently graduated playwright, who, along with Simon Boulerice, has founded a company called Abat-Jour. Tibaldo discovered Berthiaume at the Montreal Fringe Festival.
Asked how she approaches cross-cultural works, Tibaldo replied: "It absolutely depends on the play that's being translated. There's the gamut of opinions about putting it into a different cultural context. What do you do about jokes? Religion? What are those boundaries? I think they change according to who your intended audience is."
Since The Flood Thereafter is being presented in Montreal, it's presumed that everyone is aware of the cultural references. But its creators did generalize the location of the backwater town. Just in case it tours, or finds an out-of-province market.
Tibaldo co-founded Talisman, along with Lyne Paquette, who is the artistic director, in 2005. Both were born in Montreal, but experienced the culture in different ways. While Paquette is of Quebecois heritage, Tibaldo is second-generation Italian.
"Still, the predominant culture has made us both who we are," Tibaldo said. "So for us, it was really about getting part of who we are, to a larger audience of who we are."
A lot of anglophones never go to see French theatre, she said. "We all take the metro together. We all see the same advertisements, we all go to the movies, or concerts, together. We share so much of our culture, except for theatre."
Tibaldo hopes The Flood Thereafter will turn the tide.
The Flood Thereafter, by Sarah Berthiaume, opens tonight and continues through Oct. 23 at Theatre La Chapelle, 3700 St. Dominique. Tel: 514-843-7738 or www.talisman-theatre.com.