If history is forgotten, can it come back? Can a whole story be told completely and fairly? Could it find its echo in the present day?
Angélique is a powerful, searing drama that brings to light a tragic event in Montréal’s history. In 1734, Montreal witnessed a great fire and the catastrophe was blamed on a Black slave named Marie-Josèphe Angélique (Jenny Brizard). While the play centres on Angélique’s life and the horrors of slavery, it expands its vision with themes of the oppressor and the oppressed. It examines the many social and economic tools used by the powerful to control the lives of the powerless. The plight of Black slaves, Indigenous people, women, and indentured servants are touched. The themes are juxtaposed with symbols of modern day injustices. Costume styles interchange from the past to the present; modern lifestyle accessories are described; all to convey how the need for power, status, and control does not change with the course of time.
Angélique endures abuse from her affluent master, François (an excellent and creepy Karl Graboshas), but also from his jealous wife, Thérèse (France Rolland). Angélique is also forcibly paired with the slave César (Tristan D. Lalla) by their respective masters. François’ business partner, Ignace (an imposing Chip Chuipka), is a brutal and arrogant man who treats Thérèse with condescension. Manipulation and power struggles permeate the world of these characters.
However, Angélique’s story is not entirely bleak. Her life is interspersed with moments of hope, love, and a dream of freedom. She makes friends with the servants, the jovial and kind Claude (Olivier Lamarche) and Manon (quietly effective Darla Contois), a First Nations woman who uses silence and acquiescence to survive. Angélique fights to live life and not just exist.
Ms. Brizard is passionate and vibrant. She brings great power in physically expressing Angélique’s personality. She portrays Angélique as a complete person who knows who she is and this makes the tragedy all the more poignant. Ms. Rolland also brings empathy to a heart-broken woman grasping for control. Mr. Lamarche is charming and has great comic timing. Mr. Lalla is very good as a lonely man bewildered by rejection.
The wonderful set has a rustic look and feel. The terrific music by SIXTRUM Percussion Ensemble provides mood, and tone (and sound effects!) without drowning out the actors.
History can be written from the point of view of the times. But as time changes, a closer look at the story is important. There, the lives of the people, in all of their courage and faults, are found. And they can be startlingly familiar.
Photo Credit: Jaclyn Turner
Angélique: A Black Theatre Workshop and Tableau D’Hôte Theatre co-production. Directed by Mike Payette. Written by Lorena Gale. Show continues until April 2, 2017, at Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Ste-Catherine, Montreal. Tickets $27 to $22. Call the box office 514-739-7944 or go to www.segalcentre.org