If an extraterrestrial landed in Quebec in 2023, we would show him (or read) The Plouffesso that he understands the foundations of modern Quebec society.
Both a realistic portrait of an era and a magnifying mirror of its broken dreams, The Plouffes accurately depicts the solidarity and betrayal around the family clan. On a small and large scale. The work of Roger Lemelin illustrates the desire for emancipation and freedom of a people “without culture”, “born for a small bread”, driven by their immense thirst for heroism. Like an epic that plunges us deep into the soul of a people.
In addition to featuring touching, archetypal characters, The Plouffes is a summary of the great struggles of French Canadians from the end of the Great Depression to the beginnings of the Second World War: the first workers’ unions; the affirmation of Quebec nationalism; the domination of the clergy; cultural emancipation, etc. Roger Lemelin paved the way for Gélinas, Dubé and Tremblay.
Moreover, by assisting in the production of Plouffe, at the Théâtre Denise-Pelletier, 75 years after the publication of the novel, we wonder one thing: why did we wait so long to produce the work in the theater? !
It’s done. With this excellent adaptation by Isabelle Hubert (based on the book and the film screenplay by Gilles Carle), in an ingenious production by Maryse Lapierre, with a brilliant cast! This show is remarkable and the story has not aged a bit.
What a family !
The scene opens in 1938, in the Saint-Sauveur district of Quebec. As Europe prepares to enter war, the Plouffe family is torn apart… in a different way. Guillaume, the youngest, dreams of becoming an athlete in the United States. Ovide is torn between his faith, opera and his love for Rita Toulouse. Napoleon lives on hope and cycling. Cécile, the eldest, clandestinely loves a married man. Théophile, the father, fights hypocrisy; while his wife, Joséphine, tries to preserve the family nest.
Maryse Lapierre’s direction crystallizes the social division of the National Capital in the 1930s, in a setting representing the wooden stairs perched on the cliff of Cap Diamant. And this steep slope, far from gentle, that the Catholic working class will have to climb to get out of their condition and realize their dreams.
The entire cast is remarkable! Let us mention the poignant performance of Jean-Michel Girouard as Napoléon Plouffe; the nuanced and fair performance of Frédérique Bradet in Cécile Plouffe; the very sensitive Ovid by Renaud Lacelle-Bourdon; Roger Léger and Marie-Ginette Guay in the role of parents who ensure, as best they can, the balance of their family. Maxime Beauregard-Martin plays with finesse the young journalist Denis Boucher, Lemelin’s alter ego. Rarely have we seen a cast of 14 performers so well directed on a large stage.
There are several great staging ideas in this show with no downtime, lasting 2 hours 10 minutes, including the use of musicians and singers during musical interludes; the iron part in two places; Ovide’s breakup letter to Rita Toulouse which she transforms into a baseball to throw to Stan Labrie.
Among all these staging ideas, there is that of isolating Maman Plouffe at times in her kitchen, sitting at the table, alone and terribly pensive… Marie-Ginette Guay, moving, makes us hear “the din of silence” of the mothers of families. These women who also gave birth to the Quebec of today.
Based on the work of Roger Lemelin
Directed by Maryse Lapierre
With Édith Arvisais, Maxime Beauregard-Martin, Frédérique Bradet, Robin-Joël Cool, Vincent Fafard, Jacques Girard, Jean-Michel Girouard, Alex Godbout, Marie-Ginette Guay, Renaud Lacelle-Bourdon, Gaël Lane Lépine, Roger Léger, Alice Moreault and Mary-Lee Picknell
At the Denise-Pelletier TheaterUntil October 21