Lost at sea, bewitched by song
Magical realism in Tuesday Night Cafe’s The Flood Thereafter
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.