Bridging the gap between English and French theatre at the Wildside Remix Festival

Étienne Lepage’s renowned work takes the stage of the Centaur in a new English version until March 5

Wildside Remix Festival is taking place at the Centaur Theatre until March 12, where they are currently presenting the English translation of Logic of the Worst, a theatre piece by Étienne Lepage and Frédérick Gravel. The duo first created this show in 2016. The performance, involving five interpreters, features a compilation of small stories and philosophical reflections. 

Absurdity is central to the show from the start. In a simply furnished environment consisting of only one bright green couch, a table, a chair, and microphones on stage, five characters recount events that happened to them. These stories are dramatic, bigger than nature, and surreal – sometimes even flirting with the limits of disgust. As the action evolves, they start sharing thoughts about life, about their relationships with others. They compare their experiences, competing to see who is the worst friend, the worst boyfriend, the worst son, and the worst human. Throughout the show, the absurdity remains, but anecdotes leave room for existential questions. 

Lepage was first inspired by the book Logique du pire by Clément Rosset. He describes his own creative work as a “really free and really personal reaction to this Nietzschean vision of the world, that we are all dancers, people who need to find absurd answers to an absurd world.” 

As explained by Lepage, humour always takes an important part in his works. “I always find that there is an enormous, profound sense to say ‘that is reality, it is a difficult reality, but it is a reality in which the comical [nature] of our existence is saving us a little bit.’ Also, it gives us an excuse to be bad or it gives us reasons not to worry. I think there is an important philosophy in humour,” he said.

As a way of acknowledging that reality, the performers on stage play their own roles and use their real names. Audience members witness them changing the music throughout the evening. Only one member of the cast, composed of actors Jon Lachlan Stewart, Yannick Chapdelaine, Marie Bernier, Marilyn Perreault and Philippe Boutin, is anglophone. All the others assume their French accent and incorporate it into the performance. This adds to the humour, confirming the fact that they are not taking themselves seriously. 

Lepage worked in collaboration with choreographer Frédérick Gravel. Gravel’s work adds physicality to the show. While the performers do not purely dance on stage, the way they interact with objects and with the music transmit rich physical states. 

Since its premiere at Festival TransAmériques in 2016, the French version of the piece has been presented for a long time, both in Quebec and internationally. Lepage and Gravel were then invited to translate it. For Rose Plotek, curator of the Wildside Remix Festival at the Centaur Theatre where the play has been showing, this new version has the potential to reach new audiences in the English community – a core mission of the festival.“We’re introducing really incredible artists to a community that’s going to be less familiar with them and hopefully some of the audience that is familiar with them will come to the Centaur and see that it is a place where they are welcome as well,” she said.

For its 25th edition, the Wildside Remix Festival presents three shows, including Logic of the Worst. The 10-day event aims to bring the French and English theatre communities together  through a collaboration between La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines and Centaur Theatre. 

Another goal of the event is to showcase experimental works. According to Plotek, “[the festival’s] ethos has always been to present and support work that one would not normally see on the main stage at the Centaur.” The curator added that this could include “work that is happening in different kinds of performance modes, like dance theatre or theatre that feels closer to performance art or just forms that are different.”

Therefore, the festival plays a part in the Centaur’s larger goal of expanding its reach to broader audiences and a larger diversity of artists. For Plotek, their scope can be expanded through language backgrounds, but also through artistic disciplines and approaches.

“My little personal mission has been to say, ‘Hey performance community, the Centaur can be a home for you.’ It doesn’t need to be just a home for a kind of more classical English theatre artists. It can be a home for many kinds of artists with both francophone or anglophone or like cultural diversity, or just performance background, people who make work that is more experimental wouldn’t think of the Centaur as a theatre that could be a home for them, but actually it can,” said Plotek.

The Wildside Remix Festival presents Logic of the Worst until March 5. .The following week, they will showcase 1,2, Maybe 3 by performance artists Jean + Syd. Tickets are available on the Centaur Theatre’s website.


Visuals courtesy Denis Farley & Gunther Gamper


The Tropic of X demands you to open your eyes

Caridad Svich’s bold dreamscape shatters preconceptions

Stepping into the theatre feels personal. You are a guest in experiences that may or may not parallel your own. If one thing’s for certain, it is the fact that you are a tourist here, and the people on the stage will not let you forget that. They know you are watching them. You are a temporary voyeur, and they strive to make you uncomfortable.

Initially premiering in Germany in 2007, Montreal’s Centaur Theatre hosts The Tropic of X, written by Caridad Svich and directed by Sophie Gee. The play follows lovers Maura (Arlen Aguayo) and Mori (Braulio Elicer) “in a touristed wasteland at the end of the alphabet.” When people sweep things under the rug, this is where the crumbs go. Welcome to under the rug.

The characters stare back at you and snicker as you seat yourself. They sit, legs dangling, on a graffiti-covered wall. They judge you. Behind them are mountains of trash loosely stuffed into transparent plastic bags. All the waste is laid out for you to see. There is nowhere to hide here. The play charges forward with blatant and unabashed honesty.

The characters speak at you. They do not lean on props. They have themselves; their bodies and tongues have become their instruments. Their words are concise and ruthless. The protagonists, Maura and Mori, move about this world erratically, characterized by simulated mania and essential codependency. Together they swirl in an ever-evolving landscape littered with cultural leftovers so generously donated by the American Dream.

“The language of the colonizer creates the most complete and effective of prisons, the prison which controls thought and expression.”

The program quotes theatrologist, Marvin Carlson, who wrote about the play in his paper, Which Language Do They Want Me To Speak?. Carlson emphasizes that while the characters speak in “la lingua franca,” a bridge-language between two groups that do not share a mother tongue, their words do not belong to the Indigenous languages of the land they live on. Rather, they speak a pidgin of Spanish and English––languages imported and imposed by colonizers.

The Tropic of X confronts colonialism, capitalism and consumerism through aggressive poetry and whispered pillow talk. It’s mesmerizing. It’s romantic. And yet, it is impossible to forget that this is a love story about getting lost and sinking into a reality that eats you up and sucks the marrow from your bones.

This play demands your respect. It’s heavy, raw and impossible to preface because when you buy a ticket, you are paying to be screamed at. You are going to listen to a love story filled to the brim with disgust, broken promises, and disappointment so ingrained in society that it has become commonplace. The characters fight pernicious hopes that poison their minds with insidious notions of better tomorrows.

Svich creates a narrative that asks us to look at what we have done. They ask us to question problems that were never meant to be solved, that have been perpetuated since their origin. In a blog post about The Tropic of X  with Associate Artist Cristina Cugliandro, they write: “The play itself – how it is written – is an act of resistance.” Svich reminds us with every sharp word that this is not just a story.

This is today. This is yesterday. The Tropic of X is still bitterly relevant 13 years later.  



For tickets,




Illustration by Sarah Gonzales, Courtesy of Erin Lindsay


Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

The Centaur Theatre is ringing in the New Year with the Wildside Festival, in its 22nd year. Along with showcasing many shows by different production companies, the festival is in partnership with the Offside Festival. This partnership dedicates Thursday and Friday nights to sounds from Montreal’s musical landscape being performed in the Centaur Gallery after the last show of the evening, with this Saturday dedicated to Patti Smith. Although the Festival is already underway, take a look at what shows are left for the remainder of the week!

Body So Fluorescent

A one-woman show featuring Amanda Cordner asks questions about blackness, otherness and oppression. Fluorescent, written in two parts, is about Gary, a gay, white male, and Desiree, a straight, black woman, who are trying to figure out how they ended up in an explosive fight the night before. In the process, Desiree goes through the motions of trying to imagine what her life would be like as Gary and stunning revelations are made.

When: Jan. 16 and 19 at 9 p.m., and Jan. 18 at 7 p.m.


Hyena Subpoena

Another one-woman show, Hyena is performed by Montreal’s own Cat Kidd. The storyline is inspired by Kidd’s tour in South Africa in 2007. Mona Morse, Kidd’s character and the narrator of the poems based on the trip, shows the connection between humans and animals. She shows how both species can be quite similar by bending the boundaries between human and animal form on stage.

When: Jan. 15 and 17 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 20 at 3 p.m.


Crime After Crime (After Crime)

This is the story of three different crime periods in Crime City: a film noir of the 50s, a heist of the 70s, and a buddy cop story of the 90s. The comedy thriller, full of everything you hope to see in a cop production—murder, mystery, car chases and more—won the Just For Laughs Best Comedy Award at the 2018 Montreal Fringe Festival.

When: Jan. 15 at 9 p.m. and Jan. 16 at 7 p.m.



The story of Sapientia comes from Hroswitha of Gandersheim, a poetess of 10th century Germany. It’s about the Christian martyrdom of a woman and her three daughters as they face persecution. Instead of people, the Scapegoat Carnivale Production company uses everyday objects such as mirrors, teacups and pomegranates to let the story unfold.

When: Jan. 17 and 18 at 9 p.m., and Jan. 19 at 3 p.m.


The Gentle Art of Punishment

This multidisciplinary performance—filled with dance, music and text—is a piece about three young women unravelling their childhoods in a dream-like narrative. It is a piece that was created by the Daughter Product, a group of young female Montreal artists. The Gentle Art of Punishment explores the world we live in today, what it means to be a woman in today’s world and what we do when dealing with a crisis.

When: Jan. 19 and 20 at 7 p.m.


To purchase tickets, visit

Centaur Theatre’s Choir Boy is a raw, emotional and truthful telling of excellence

“This is our Black Panther moment”

When the Centaur Theatre premiered its first show on Oct. 28, 1969, the auditorium still smelled of paint and a team of plumbers had just fixed the sprinkler system.

The opening-night production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, originally a novel by Muriel Spark and adapted for the stage by Jay Presson Allen, was reviewed by The McGill Daily’s Randy Roddick a few days later. In this rather lackluster review, Roddick acknowledged the cast’s successful performance but also mentioned the struggles the Centaur dealt with: the colour of the theatre was “shitty” (quite literally—it was brown), and the building’s safety was only given the green light by the fire department 20 minutes before curtain call.

Roddick concluded his article with: “In the future, who knows, maybe this company will become more relevant and more exciting.” If only he could have known that the Centaur would be celebrating its golden anniversary, still hosting six to 10 shows per season and acclaiming success both locally and internationally.

This year, the Centaur opened its 50th anniversary season with Choir Boy, directed by Mike Payette and written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won the 2017 Oscar for his screen adaptation of Moonlight. This season’s inaugural play premiered in 2012 at the Royal Court in London and is set to debut on Broadway in December 2018.

Choir Boy is about a talented singer named Pharus (played by Steven Charles) who is trying to prove to the Drew Prep School for Boys that he is the rightful leader of their choir. The coming-of-age story showcases a cast of young black men focused on their dreams while dealing with everything life throws at them.

On Oct. 12, the opening night of the season, the Centaur Theatre was full of anticipation for the show which was nothing short of fantastic. The play began with Kanye West’s “Power” and the five choir boys on an elevated part of the stage.

It wasn’t long before pieces of banter and witty jokes got the audience laughing. The back-and-forth dialogue showed the authenticity of the characters and added to the excited atmosphere of the theatre hall. The way the actors interacted with the audience allowed the crowd to feel connected and as if they were a part of the story, possibly finding a small part of themselves in what was shown on stage. The a capella numbers were simple, yet delivered with such passion and fervor; each actor was given the opportunity to show their vocal talents.

During an interview, each of the actors said they were so excited and proud to be a part of something that, on some level, represents what they have been through in their lifetime.

Vlad Alexis, who plays Junior, said they’re “doing it for the culture” and that “this is our Black Panther moment; Wakanda really is forever.”

Patrick Abellard, who plays Bobby, said he tried to explain to his friends what the show is about, but it’s really something you have to experience first-hand. Choir Boy is raw, emotional and truthful; it’s a story of acceptance, friendship and loyalty through trials and tribulations. It is a whole-heartedly inspiring story of young black excellence.


Choir Boy runs until Oct. 28. To see what else the Centaur is showing this season, check out their website:



The Watershed sheds light on political issues

Politics, water and the Experimental Lakes Area take centre stage at the Centaur Theatre

Have you ever heard of the Experimental Lakes Area(ELA) near Kenora, Ontario? Have you ever thought about how much clean water is worth? Are you willing to find the answers by driving across the country in a Winnebago crammed with three children, a husband and a bacon-loving dog? Maybe not, but thanks to Montreal playwright Annabel Soutar, you can experience that journey from the comfort of the Centaur Theatre.

The Watershed is Porte Parole and Crow Theatre’s newest venture in documentary and political theatre. According to the Porte Parole website, documentary theatre is a creative process whereby artists record current event stories from many different perspectives, such as TV segments, in person interviews, radio and online sources. They then sort and mediate those perspectives for an audience in the form of a play. All of the dialogue in The Watershed came from recorded interviews and family conversations about water and the ELA. The Watershed explores Soutar’s journey to find answers about why the Canadian ELA the world’s only freshwater research site, was shut down by the Harper government in 2013, after a scientist who worked there published an unflattering review of the Oil Sands.

The Watershed follows playwright Annabel Soutars family as they journey across Canada to find answers about the ELA. Photo courtesy of Porte Parole Productions

Commissioned for the 2015 Panamania Festival, the play begins with Soutar speaking to a local plumber about how water comes into the home. It then grows to become a cross-country journey to find out why the Harper government cut funding to the ELA, which had an annual budget of about $2 million.

The greatest part about this play is its documentary style, specifically the dialogue and characters. The play’s characters range from Soutar’s hilarious children to former Prime Minister Harper and scientist Diane Orihel, who put aside her research to fight for the ELA. The documentary style gives the characters depth, reliability and reasoning since they are real people speaking their own words, rather than ones made up by a playwright to go along with a story.

Soutar’s children, Ella and Beatrice (the third child on the trip, Hazel, is director Chris Abraham’s daughter), played by Amelia Sargisson, and Ngozi Paul, are almost like average audience members within the play. They begin the journey with little knowledge about water, watersheds or where freshwater comes from. As the play continues, the girls become more and more knowledgeable as they sit in on many of the interviews—which the audience also witnesses as they are reenacted on stage.

By the end of the play, the children are conducting their own interviews and learning more about how different people view the oil sandsfor example, as a vice president of sustainability for a Montreal oil company said in her interview with Soutar, “People who are for it call it the oil sands. People who hate it call it the tar sands.”

Both The Watershed and Soutar’s previous documentary play, Seeds, have definitely solidified documentary theatre as my favourite style of theatre. While traditional playwriting definitely has its place, this new documentary style feels much more sincere and appeals to modern-day audiences. The Watershed runs until Dec. 4 at the Centaur Theatre. Tickets are available online, at     


The Irish have come to town

Press photo for Centaur Theatre’s production, TRAD

There’s nothing quite as Irish as a mistrust of the English, a drunk priest and a fiddle. Ordinarily, a play that centres around a pair of old men, of which the youngest is an impressive 100 years old, would not see the light of day.

That’s what makes the Centaur Theatre’s most recent production, TRAD, such a great feat. Its playwright, Mark Doherty, has managed to bring to life a robust work full of colourful dialogue that tells an expansive and quintessentially Irish story.

TRAD is the story of an Irish centenarian, Thomas and his father, Da. A series of laments on Da’s behalf about the impending end of his family line push Thomas to reveal that, although he never married, when he was a 29-year-old young lad, he fathered a child during a brief affair with a girl from another town. Without even the child’s name and with only the mother’s first name, Thomas and Da set out to find the youngest member of their family, a now 70-year-old son.

As the duo’s journey takes them across Ireland, a historical journey is also undertaken through a series of Da’s recollections, who is played by actor Patrick Costello. Costello brilliantly captures the physicality of a centenarian: a hunched, restless body, complete with twitchy eyebrows, rounded jittery fingers and a hoarse but proud Irish voice. In addition, Da is missing a leg and wears a prosthesis during the search for his grandson. One can’t help but think that it’s a true accomplishment on Costello’s part to endure 80 minutes without bending his knee.

On another hand, Thomas, who is played by Graham Cuthbertson, offers a refreshing contrast to the centenarian’s character, putting forth a great deal of vivaciousness throughout the entire play. Managing to deliver his character’s sweet and docile nature, Cuthbertson’s sincerity was a perfect foil for the embittered and cynical Da. The two characters played off each other, complementing Da’s role as a man trying to move forward after a century of being told to look back.

While the subject and message of the story are certainly laden with depth and acumen, that is in no way the case of the play itself. The third actor in TRAD is the play’s own director, Andrew Shaver, who takes on the roles of two different characters. The more important of the two is Father Rice, a ridiculous Gary Busey-looking priest who helps the pair locate their kin. Shaver is utterly hilarious playing the drunken priest, making the audience roar with laughter as he incorporates both lively story-telling and his physical comedy into his acting.

The physical theatrics that the characters engage in during the play were no doubt enabled by the deceptively simplistic set design. Each prop on set was well thought out, surprising the audience and giving more dimension to a play that is already rich in content. Old men jumping around, apples thrown towards the audience and booze being spit all over the place was completely energizing and emphasized a sense of involvement for the spectators. As a final touch, the musical score, composed by Doherty’s own father, Jim, completed the play masterfully. Played through a guitar and a fiddle, it transported us to a rural Irish scene and helped intensify both the tragic and comedic moments in the play. Silly and playful from beginning to end, TRAD is as hilarious as it is poignant.

TRAD will be running at the Centaur Theatre (located at 453 Saint-François-Xavier St.) until March 24. Tickets are $36. For additional information on showtimes, visit or call (514) 288-3161.


Round of applause for Good People

L-R: Paul Hopkins, Kim Nelson, and Johanna Nutter

Lights down. Without hesitation, a standing ovation sweeps everyone on their feet.

Centaur Theatre Company’s Good People, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and directed by Roy Surette, is a funny and profound story that is sure to tug the heartstrings of its audience.

Set in Boston’s Southie, an Irish working-class neighbourhood, where happiness is said to be a matter of luck, Margie Walsh (Johanna Nutter) is a hard-working single mother with a handicapped adult daughter. After losing her minimum-wage job at the dollar store, she decides to visit an old boyfriend she hasn’t seen in 30 years. Turns out, her old boyfriend, Mike (Paul Hopkins), got lucky.

Mike became a successful doctor and is now living in the rich suburb of Chestnut Hill with his wife Kate (Kim Nelson) and their child. Mike believes a ‘good’ life results from ‘good’ choices.

“You’re wrong,” says Margie. “Not everyone has the same choices.”

The show was praised for its quick-witted dialogue: Margie’s cynical thoughts and deadpan humour, Jean’s (Margie’s friend) foul-mouthed complaints and concern for her friends, and Mike’s outburst and frustration when his past as a Southie catches up with him. Every character has his or her own reasons for finding life unfair and seeing happiness as a luxurious privilege. But as the story unravels, it becomes clear that happiness cannot be bought.

The intricate set design added to the intimate atmosphere of the show. In the living room scenes, the audience can tilt one way or the other and peek into the hallways or through open doors. The decor is so realistic that it feels like you’re inside the character’s home and eavesdropping on their conversations.

John C. Dinning did a fabulous job with the stage as it is one of the most stunning designs in a long time. In a blink of an eye, the stage transforms itself between each scene. The audience follows the actors from a back-alley into a homey kitchen, then into a luxurious office and from there into a run-down church. The details, such as the graffiti on the walls, made the scenes that much more believable and captivating.

The props didn’t just serve a visual role — they weren’t just scattered about to visually enhance the scene. Rather, they were often used by the actors as a way to express their emotions when in silence.

Good People is one of the few plays that can pull off the ‘awkward silence’ and keep the audience holding their breath. It leaves viewers to ponder that perhaps the happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything.

Good People runs until Dec. 9 at Centaur Theatre. For more information visit


A high stress afternoon in the country, with little reward

August, An Afternoon in the Country at Centaur Theatre. Press photo.

Who doesn’t like watching a good screaming match? They’re dramatic, tension-ridden, the stakes are high and it makes for great entertainment.

The same can be said for August, An Afternoon in the Country — Jean Marc Dalpé’s critically acclaimed play about a dysfunctional Canadian family living on a farm outside of Montreal.

Translated from Dalpé’s original French version, Août – un repas à la campagne, by his wife Maureen Labonté, and directed by Harry Standjofski, the play comes to life on the Centaur’s main stage more than six years after it first premiered in Quebec back in 2006.

“Who are these people?” asks Dalpé in the program’s ‘playwright’s notes’ section. “There are many tricks of the trade to tell a story on stage but I tried to stay away from most of them to focus on just that one question.”

With this in mind, the viewer is prepared for what follows — 80 minutes of impeccable acting, a few chuckles (mostly at Grandma, a hilariously bitter and judgmental gem, played by the very talented Clare Coulter), and the rawness that accompanies the disintegration of a seemingly normal, yet loud and abrasive, family.

The set design is stunning and effective, consisting of a white wooden porch, a swing, and a pebble-lined front lawn. To the left and right of the stage lies an imaginary apple tree, hen house, and driveway. There are no frivolities, just the necessary swinging door, allowing actors to go from the porch to the inside of the house. When it’s time for supper, a wooden plank and two-by-fours form a makeshift table, exactly like they would on a hot summer’s day up north.

However, the most impressive part of the setting was the sunny yellow lights and summer sounds, used to create the swelteringly hot atmosphere that is essential to August’s drama and denouement. How else can Josée, the feisty teenage daughter (played by a very confident and promising Arielle Palik), scream about having to move the car and lose her temper about having to go to the dry cleaners if it weren’t for the intolerable heat? How could Monique (an enchanting and funny Danette Mackay), the sophisticated family member who plays golf with her new husband and lives in the city, fan herself constantly if it weren’t for the humid summer air? In other words, the set and costume design for a play such as this requires a fabulous magician. James Lavoie deserves all the praise he has received thus far, and being a five-time recipient of the Montreal English Critics Circle Award, his skill comes as no surprise.

The only downside to August is the ending. It is a running gag in theatre to say that “if you don’t like the ending, then you don’t like the play.” Sadly, in this case, ‘I didn’t like the play.’

The entire length of the play, the tension rises and rises and rises, as the audience sits through an emotionally draining but realistic break down. There is so much screaming, and cringe-worthy heartbreak that you expect a great pay-off the end, you want something (anything, even if it’s bad) to come from all of this difficulty and despair!

Instead, the situation is left opened-ended and somewhat unresolved — the main characters all standing stock-still on the stage as the lights dim. The audience does have the opportunity to experience the trials and tribulations of this family. They learn that even in the country, where we sometimes believe life to be beautiful and carefree, there is real life and real problems. Yet, it seems, that we only have one afternoon… and perhaps one afternoon is simply not enough.

August, An Afternoon in the Country runs until Oct. 28. For ticket and showtime information visit

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