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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 13, No. 1 September 2007


by Jessica Laurence / September 4, 2007

The Montreal English theatre scene is larger and more active than many people realize. Thriving with budding new companies, it is also in continuous expansion and exceptional performances can be found in some of the most modest settings. Here were some of the best shows of the year:


This was without doubt one of the best English productions of the year. Set in a hospital ward, it’s a powerful one-woman mask show. The talented Anana Rydvald managed to be both lovable and believable as she played each of her characters, making the audience laugh and cry as this heart-warming story unfolded.


Fallen Angel Productions’ second show this year was well done. Though at times lengthy, this deep and dark play by George F. Walker was nominated as the best show of the year by the Mirror’s “Best of Montreal 2007 Readers Poll.”

American Buffalo

SideMart Equity Coop delivered an awesome piece of work with this David Mamet play. Using the MainLine Theatre, this resourceful company made creative use of an actual dressing room by setting it up as the stage and when actors left the “stage” they were literally exiting the building! This novel element to the show gave the audience a heightened sense of awareness and of reality. Coupled with an amazing cast, the show was an unmistakable hit.

I Am Yours

Tableau d’Hôte handled Judith Thompson’s intense and challenging play marvelously. The cast managed to tell a harsh and poignant story with surprising ease.

The Lady Smith

This production by the Black Theatre Workshop was a pleasant yet thought-provoking play, beautifully written and with well-rounded, true-to-life characters. Gifted playwright Andrew Moodie often writes about the Canadian black middle-class giving black actors more performance opportunities.

To the Green Fields Beyond

Persephone Productions’ play about a tank crew in the fall of 1918 was another success. The cast’s cohesion and camaraderie onstage were almost palpable holding the play together beautifully as this disconcerting story was revealed.

Alice in Wonderland

Geordie Productions’ version of this classic tale was brilliantly done. Actors on bikes would wheel in long tables as sets for each scene, an innovative design concept lending a unique and whimsical spin to a familiar story.

Housekeeping and Homewrecking :

This was one of the big highlights at the Fringe Festival this year. The show was stripped down to the bare necessities of theatre. With a simple script and an even simpler set (black boxes with words written in chalk were used to set the scene), the actors relied greatly on each other. Under less skilled hands the play could have easily fallen short but the talented cast presented a stimulating, sincere, and reflective piece.


The Centaur Theatre produced this charming play last winter. Rosemary Dunsmore delivered a delightful interpretation of American “soprano” Florence Foster Jenkins, a woman who became famous precisely because she had absolutely no singing ability!

Scapin the Schemer / Les fourberies de Scapin

Repercussion Theatre, with 18 years of Shakespeare under its belt, took a risk and put on a Molière this year using a completely bilingual cast. The play was performed both in English and in the original French version; it’s truly a unique Montreal accomplishment. Hopefully, other Quebec companies will be inspired by this bold move and follow suit.


This Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre production was entertaining and quite inspiring despite some drawbacks. Mozart (Damien Atkins) was in a persistent battle with his wig, constantly brushing errant strands of hair away from his face thus lessenng his credibility. His wife, Constanze (Brigitte Pogonat) didn’t seem to be completely comfortable with her role and therefore, didn’t appear convincing either. Her strong French accent made her somewhat difficult to understand despite her best efforts. Salieri (Jean Marchand) and the rest of the cast, however, looked and sounded wonderful. The stately set, designed by Yannik Larivée, was impressive. It was a beautiful reminder of the power and grandeur larger theatres can exude.

Romeo and Juliet

Centaur Theatre’s presentation of this classic tale of love, was a bit of a disappointment. Seeming to do too many things at once, this interpretation doesn’t effectively communicate its raison d’être. Despite their obvious talent, the actors performed under absurd contexts. There were various inexplicable and vague elements in this show: the convenient yet unjustifiable crowbars that would appear only when a sword fight was about to insue, the strange ski-mask fights and even more ridiculous, the haphazard light transitions. All of these incidents left audience members scratching their heads in bewilderment throughout the show.

Here’s what to look out for this season:

Gas : This brand-new play written by a young Montreal playwright will be showing at Infinitheatre in October.

Quills: Fallen Angel Productions.

Jehanne of the Witches: Tableau d’Hôte

Diary of Anne Frank: Segal Centre

Centre Enemy of the People: Written by Miles Potter, at the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts

Speak Easy: A new production by Sabooge Theatre, will be playing October 12th, 13th and 14th at the Centaur. It was performed in 2005 during the New Classical Theatre Festival and is a definite must-see. It promises a stellar cast and a simple yet unbelievably ingenious set.

For a more complete listing of all the English shows to come this season, pick up a free QDF (Quebec Drama Federation) theatre calendar which is available at various artistic venues.

(c) La Scena Musicale