Lost at sea, be­witched by song

Mag­i­cal re­al­ism in Tues­day Night Cafe’s The Flood There­after

The McGill Daily - - Culture - Har­ri­son Brewer Cul­ture Writer

The Flood There­after has a sense of the su­per­nat­u­ral in­ter­twined with a seem­ingly mun­dane set­ting. This re­sults in a mov­ing, in­ti­mate, and al­most tragi­comic pro­duc­tion. Put to­gether by the Tues­day Night Cafe (TNC) Theatre, the play is per­me­ated with the themes of fam­ily, love, in­no­cence, and be­witch­ment. Cleo da Fon­seca, co- di­rec­tor of the play, told The Daily that the genre of mag­i­cal re­al­ism lies at the ba­sis of the pro­duc­tion.

The Flood There­after is set in a Que­bec fish­ing vil­lage on the lower St. Lawrence River where the men can no longer fish be­cause they are en­snared by the beauty of the mer­maid Grace (Daphné Morin), who has washed up on the shore. Grace leaves to open a shop with her daugh­ter June (Camille Banville), whose fa­ther is one of the fish­er­men, caus­ing the vil­lage to slump into poverty as the fish­er­men refuse to work due to their de­spair. How­ever, the fish­er­men find un­ex­pected so­lace in June, whose danc­ing at the grungy vil­lage bar brings the men to tears.

The play is an rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of the tale of Odysseus and the Sirens, in which the Sirens at­tempt to lure Odysseus away from his jour­ney home us­ing their beauty and en­tranc­ing songs. There is a quasi- Odysseus char­ac­ter in Den­nis (Jérémy Benoit), a trav­eller go­ing home who is be­witched by June’s spell. The Siren char­ac­ter type, por­trayed through Grace and June, are am­bigu­ously su­per­nat­u­ral, leav­ing the au­di­ence spell-bound. Although there are slightly heavy-handed ref­er­ences to the orig­i­nal story, writer Sarah Berthi­aume and di­rec­tors da Fon­seca and Daphné Morin man­age to mould the epic theme of home­com­ing to the Que­be­cois set­ting.

Que­be­cois slang is weaved into the English-lan­guage nar­ra­tive through Grace, who dips in and out of French through­out her di­a­logue with June. Ul­ti­mately, the play’s trans­la­tion to the St. Lawrence re­gion is not en­tirely out of place with the set­ting of the orig­i­nal tale – as it links to­gether sea­far­ing in both The Odyssey and The Flood There­after. Da Fon­seca spoke to The Daily about the im­por­tance of the Greek epic futher. “Greek mythol­ogy is real in some ways, it is present in our lives. [...] The Odyssey is so tragic and the idea of leav­ing home and com­ing back is some­thing that is com­mon to a lot of peo­ple. The idea that the fish­er­man is some­one who is al­ways lost at sea is a very pow­er­ful thing that every­one can re­late to,” Da Fon­seca said.

As the Sirens’ spell at­tracted the fish­er­men, the act­ing in TNC’S pro­duc­tion pulled the au­di­ence into the drama. June and Grace are both su­perbly per­formed. They man­age to de­pict a di­chotomy of in­no­cence and ma­tu­rity through their moth­er­daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship. It be­comes im­pos­si­ble to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the ac­tor from her role as Banville plays June’s char­ac­ter mas­ter­fully. Den­nis, the wan­der­ing driver who en­ters the bar dur­ing one of June’s be­witch­ing dances, takes a lit­tle while to ad­just to his role, but once in full flow, the pas­sion and the role come through in waves as he be­comes by the par­tic­u­lar spell of the vil­lage.

An­other in­trigu­ing cou­pling within the play lies in that of Homer (Pierre-luc Sené­cal) and Pene­lope (Amalea Ruf­fett). Their re­la­tion­ship res­onates with the drama of the play, where Homer, a fish­er­man taken by June’s danc­ing, is in con­flict with Pene­lope, his wife, who finds her­self jeal­ous of June’s cap­ti­va­tion of Homer.

The Flood There­after has many qual­i­ties of a “Great Amer­i­can Novel” feel, draw­ing par­al­lels be­tween the pub­lic sphere and its im­pact on fa­mil­ial re­la­tions. As in An­cient Greek tragedy, the mes­sage is mud­dled by the tragi­comic episodes of woe played out on stage. The pro­duc­tion plays with the im­por­tance of home­com­ing, draw­ing fa­mil­iar feel­ings of faith­ful­ness toward what’s dear to us. The viewer be­comes one of the play’s char­ac­ters, swept along by the au­then­tic act­ing and di­a­logue, and by an oc­ca­sional feel­ing of quirky re­lax­ation, a sen­ti­ment that the The Odyssey def­i­nitely did not evoke of An­cient Greek view­ers at the time.

The play runs March 23 to 25 at 8 p.m. at Mor­rice Hall.

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