Anne-Marie Saheb, Richard Jutras and Devon Hardy in Tableau D’Hôte Theatre’s premiere episode of “En Pointe”. (Photo Credit: Jaclyn Turner)
Tableau D’Hôte Theatre presents “En Pointe,” a series of short immersive performances set against the backdrop of Pointe-Saint-Charles neighborhood. Written and directed by Mathieu Murphy-Perron, the series consists of nine episodes, each featuring a cast of different working-class characters living in the Pointe, and each held at a different secret outdoor location.
This stripped-down, “spontaneously-created” neighbourhood theatre experience plays along the line between life and art. Upon arrival at the first episode’s location, the boundaries of the “set” are unmarked, within the liminal setting of a residential street during a pandemic. Curious faces peer out of windows, as a colourfully-masked crowd, consisting of community members of all ages, gathers around an unassuming front entrance. On this warm summer evening, the setting sun casts a natural spotlight through the canopy onto the brick facade, framed by symmetrical spiral staircases sprouting from humble urban gardens.
The play begins as multiple front doors open with choreographed movement and a musical flourish. Rob Denton’s excellent sound design is essential, not only in delineating the performance space, but also in colouring the performance with a sense of hope.
“Episode 1: (Partial) Reopening Day” features three neighbours, as they emerge from their homes and reflect on their quarantine experiences. Despite their slightly different living situations, two women (Devon Hardy and Anne-Marie Saheb) find much-needed connection through commiseration and shared confusion brought on by COVID-19.
Meanwhile, their older upstairs neighbour (Richard Jutras) struggles in solitude with severe anxiety—afraid of going out, afraid of getting sick, afraid of change, and afraid of going back to normal. He croons a poetic monologue behind the women’s prosaic dialogue, reminding us that behind every casual conversation about inconvenience, is the unheard cry of those in even more dire physical or mental states.
The miserable man is cloaked in a muted rainbow-striped robe, sitting in nuanced juxtaposition to the cheery children’s rainbows marking doors and windows, while the women perform a choreographed chant of “ça va bien aller.” These meaningful touches and artistic storytelling moments are exciting glimmers of the performing arts slowly reawakening in the streets of Montreal.
The bilingual text humorously echoes the thoughts many of us have had during quarantine, while tackling themes of loneliness and of losing one’s sense of identity in the face of forced change. While this twelve-minute play barely begins to crack open the complex feelings we all have about the reopening process, it reinforces an important message to everyone as we figure it out: “It’s okay not to be okay.”
Now that the characters—and the artists and audiences alike—have begun to emerge from their isolation, to navigate the outside world’s new rules and challenges, we are all anxious to see what new perspectives they will bring forth and share with their community.
Tableau D’Hôte Theatre’s En Pointe runs for 9 performances from August 6th to September 27th, 2020 across Pointe-Saint-Charles. Free admission. Every show is at a different location, revealed on the day of performances. Bring a mask.