Les Louves’ show Projet Nuit Blanche first struck me in that it has no formal title. Thus, upon entering Mainline Theatre late Friday night, I had very little idea what to expect—but blank slates can be exciting. Indeed, after researching this project, I found a lot to get excited about. Les Louves’ show was created by a combination of members of Les Louves collective and many other interdisciplinary artists, and this show is in fact the culmination of over a dozen performances, twenty-three artists’ work, and many hours of collective creation including a six hour creation lab that took place during Montreal’s Nuit Blanche—hence the title. I came up with the thought that this collective submitted this working title while they were still in development, and looked forward to an ambitious show.
Projet Nuit Blanche begins as a variety show, with an emcee—crips suit and all—starting us off by addressing an audience directly in a sort of TV voice. I say “an” audience, because there is a certain uneasiness as we try to figure out if we are being addressed, or if we are watching the beginning of a show about a show. The emcee begins to ask for volunteers in an invitation for audience collaboration that both begs to break down the fourth wall and yet sounds confusingly scripted. But actors keep streaming out from the curtain upstage, filling spots when none of us is brave enough. Today’s variety show theme, we learn, is Success. We thus begin a question and answer game, the first of many different chapters of Les Louves’ Projet Nuit Blanche.
In this first scene, audience members, along with performers, ask questions to one another about Success. When did you feel the most successful? What colour is success? This leads to some charming moments from audience members, and I begin to expect that this show will be using audience participation throughout. Eventually, after a long enough time that I wonder if we all must go up, a buzzer sounds, and the whole performance completely transforms. Unexpectedly, a scene begins, desks are brought out, and actors dressed as various stereotypical high school types enter what we figure out is a Success class. Quickly, the fourth wall is built right back up, and won’t be broken down again for the rest of the hour, as we begin to understand that the various pieces of this show may have nothing to do with each other. In fact, this scene mostly consists of a recorded voice reciting the longest definition of success (and health, and other goal-type words—the voice is difficult to understand) I have ever heard, and I begin to wonder if the audience has been utterly forgotten.
It is at this point that I remember that Project Nuit Blanche advertises itself as a culmination of a lengthy collective creation process. Their online description is interesting, well-written if surprisingly ambitious, but struck me as lacking any clear focus, topic, theme or goal—even the form of their project is left wide open. How would I define the success of a show that has no real aim other than the creation of a show?
There are many interesting moments that follow, although others seem utterly confusing and unrehearsed, and it seems we are invited to take in mini shows rather than any cohesive whole. Many of the scenes feel stunted and lacking in purpose, like an idea that was never elaborated beyond its initial image or premise. Other moments feel like they are born from a desire to Say Something Important, including an interesting anti-nationalism spoken word performance that is compelling, if totally random. But shouldn’t one of the goals, and challenges, of making theatre be to include political messages into theatre, and weave opinions into performance, beyond yelling political opinions (and straight up undeniable facts, some of which would make great points of focus for a play) into a mic? Projet Nuit Blanche questions the nature and boundaries of fringe art, and leaves us wondering what makes performance.
The event feels like a collaboration of new artists who are still learning to push each other, or to connect their very distinct artistic goals. There is something beautiful and inspiring in their professed desire to connect artistic forms, different messages, and even artists to non-artists, but it seems this purpose hasn’t yet been translated into a cohesive performance. Not every participant seems to be a performer, but everyone finds a moment to show us who they are through what is clearly their own scene—whether it be through a piece of creative writing, a rap, or a few scenes riffing on the topic of success. There seems to be plenty of opportunity for depth inside their chosen theme, but for now this collective is still scratching the surface. It was particularly disappointing to have a few interesting identity politic opinions be surrounded by other scenes that cast the performers into archaic high school stereotypes. It became clear to me that the performance could have no real title, because it still doesn’t quite know what it is. This creation project has a lot of heart, but it seems like it may still be at the beginning of its journey.
Les Louves presents “Projet Nuit Blanche”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Performances: June 7 – 15, 2019
Venue: 06 – MainLine Theatre
3997 Saint-Laurent, Montréal, H2W 1Y4
Admission: $10 – 12 | Ages 12+
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