FTA Review: “La fureur de ce que je pense” sheds light on the dark side of beauty

French piece looks at the life and work of Montreal novelist Nelly Arcan

La fureur de ce que je pense (Photo: Caroline Laberge)

After being first presented to sold-out houses in April 2013 at Espace Go, Montréal’s Festival TransAmériques brings to this year’s programming La fureur de ce que je pense, brainchild of Marie Brassard and Sophie Cadieux in their consummate fascination by the life and work of Nelly Arcan.

Arcan, the outspoken Montréal novelist who committed suicide by hanging on September 24th, 2009 at the age of thirty-six, is here given seven voices in an extraordinary feat of layered, superimposed storytelling. A woman tortured by her struggles with body image and female identity, we learn of her troubled existence – tainted by her stint as an escort – by means of a collage of dramatic monologues impeccably performed by Christine Beaulieu, Sophie Cadieux, Larissa Corriveau, Johanne Haberlin, Evelyne de la Chenelière, Julie Le Breton, and Anne Thériault. Brassard has here extracted and restructured the deliciously poetic text from Arcan’s own published literary works (which include Putain, Folle and L’enfant dans le miroir) to create an original stage production of piercing resonance.

Galvanizing, sophisticated, and intricate in its finest of details, it’s the kind and calibre of theatre a reviewer profoundly yearns for and waits for years to come across.

The striking scenography by Antonin Sorel isolates the seven actresses in adjoint glass cubicles from where they deliver their individual speeches, each presenting unique key motifs from Arcan’s novels. Akin to fragile shop mannequins on vulnerable display, they chant on the objectification of the female figure and the paradoxical empowerment and imprisonment of beauty.

(Each carnal performance is certifiably more exquisite than the next, but Sophie Cadieux and Larissa Corriveau in the opening and closing segments, respectively, are particularly noteworthy for their remarkable work in distorted physicality.)

Exploring the solitude and melancholy of the late author, the narrative delicately expounds on themes of death and suffering, which goes on to include allusions to her suicide. We discover her love for the cosmos and the antarctic – which, even in their sterility, perhaps appealed for their expansiveness, placidity, and purity. She was, at her essence, a conflicted entity in search of light and for a connection with something larger than the self.

Composer Alexander MacSween, lighting designer Mikko Hynninen, and sound designer Frédéric Auger have here conjointly devised an atmosphere of palpable grandeur. MacSween’s pulsating electronic score could even be described as a modern requiem of sorts to Arcan with its identifiable choral elements. Costume designer Catherine Chagnon ups the elegance of the piece with her sublime, sculptural outfits. It’s an audiovisual spectacle to arouse the senses.

I seldom confer the “must-see” distinction, but La fureur de ce que je pense categorically ranks as one of the most enthralling theatrical experiences one has ever been privileged to encounter. (No stately adjective is herein used gratuitously or for the sole purpose of embellishment, rest-you-assured.) The production effortlessly stands alone as Montreal Theatre Hub’s top pick for this year’s FTA for its breathtaking aestheticism, resplendent prose, and arresting message. Proceed now to www.fta.ca.

Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Editor-in-Chief Camila Fitzgibbon

Infrarouge presents “La fureur de ce que je pense” at the FTA

When: June 3 – 6, 2017
Where: Usine C (1345, Avenue Lalonde)
Duration: 1 hour 25 minutes
Presented in French with English surtitles
Box Office: Online tickets | 514 844 3822 / 1 866 984 3822

Produced by Infrarouge
Written by Nelly Arcan
Adapted and directed by Marie Brassard
Ideation and development Sophie Cadieux
Collaborator to the adaptation and dramaturg Daniel Canty
Performed by Christine Beaulieu + Sophie Cadieux + Larissa Corriveau + Johanne Haberlin + Evelyne de la Chenelière + Julie Le Breton + Anne Thériault
Set design and props Antonin Sorel
Lighting design Mikko Hynninen
Music Alexander MacSween
Sound design Frédéric Auger
Costume design Catherine Chagnon

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