Po­etry in mo­tion at Café

The Glengarry News - - Straight Talk - BY MARGARET CALDBICK News Staff

The play is the thing -- or was it? -- last week when Café Chan­tant, the stu­dent mu­si­cal the­atre troupe from l’École se­condaire catholique Le Re­lais, mounted a dar­ing pro­duc­tion based on “Le Ciel à gag­ner,” a col­lec­tion of po­etry by Green Val­ley na­tive David Mé­nard.

When the lights rose on the first night, the au­di­ence was taken aback at the pro­duc­tion’s elab­o­rate styl­ized two-level stage set dom­i­nated by a frame­work of tow­er­ing steel gird­ers ref­er­enc­ing the sub struc­ture of a high­rise of­fice build­ing.

The ac­tion took place in a work­place full of of­fice stereo­types, their faces ex­ag­ger­ated by make-up masks em­pha­siz­ing their per­son­al­ity traits, val­ues, hopes and dreams.

“Le Ciel à gag­ner” was based on Mr. Mé­nard’s own ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing for four years in a mundane of­fice job, some­thing that later pro­vided him with his theme and the voices for his char­ac­ters.

“It’s an amaz­ing feel­ing,” said Mr. Mé­nard about see­ing his po­etry be­come the di­a­logue of a play.

“It’s quite some­thing to see on stage what you cre­ated in the soli­tude of your room per­formed be­fore over a hun­dred peo­ple a night,” he said.

“And I’m re­ally im­pressed with the ac­tors be­cause it’s not an easy text to per­form be­cause it’s po- etry,” ob­serves Mr. Mé­nard who at­tended all three per­for­mances. “It must have been so dif­fi­cult for them to learn the hun­dreds of lines by heart.”

Out­stand­ing were the mu­si­cal seg­ments ar­ranged by fi­nal year stu­dent Is­abelle Larocque who has been a main­stay of Café Chan­tant since she first ar­rived at Le Re­lais.

The 2017 Con­cours de tal­ent de l’Est on­tarien fi­nal­ist’s mu­si­cal ar­range­ments and pi­ano ac­com­pa­ni­ment, and her soar­ing and beau­ti­ful voice in the songs she per­formed, were high­lights of the evening.

Also im­pres­sive was Camille Char­bon­neau who sang in a strong clear voice. She wrote her orig­i­nal solo song which drew ap­plause. Ms. Char­bon­neau ad­mits she is more com­fort­able singing in a the­atre en­vi­ron­ment than in com­pe­ti­tion and it showed last week.

The en­tire cast in­clud­ing fun­ny­man and Café Chan­tant stal­wart Maxime Ler­oux, 17, ex­plored the full range of both the tragic and the comic in their char­ac­ters.

He also per­formed a mu­si­cal solo and im­pressed with his ca­pa­ble and strong voice.

There were many ex­cel­lent voices and the com­bined vo­cal power in finely tuned har­monies was truly ef­fec­tive and the drama and mu­sic in­te­grated flaw­lessly.

Be­fore their three-night run on the Le Re­lais stage, the week be­fore the troupe per­formed the play over three nights at the 21st edi­tion of Fes­ti­val Théâtre Ac­tion en Mi­lieu Sco­laire (FTAMS) in Ot­tawa where, like in Alexandria last week, the stu­dents re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion each night.

MARGARET CALDBICK PHOTO

CAFÉ CHAN­TANT: Poet David Mé­nard, win­ner of the 2016 Tril­lium French-lan­guage po­etry prize and the au­thor of “Le Ciel à gag­ner,” poses with cast mem­bers from Café Chan­tant af­ter the April 19 per­for­mance of the stu­dent troupe’s play based on his lat­est...

MARGARET CALDBICK PHOTO

A SCENE FROM THE SHOW: The show’s set was de­signed to re­sem­ble an of­fice build­ing.

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