Friday, we got last-minute tickets to the NAC English Theatre production of “Saint Carmen of the Main”.  Which is what I want to blog about right now.

See…   Saint Carmen was originally a 1970s play written to encourage the French population of Quebec to separate from Canada.  (Never in a million years did the play-write, Michel Tremblay, think that an anglophone director from Ottawa would call him up and say “I really want to do this play”).  The show I saw was a new translation (by Linda Gabouriau) that brought the piece into both the English language and the twenty-first century.  In this production, Carmen is a very Gaga-esque country singer, and the message she brings to her fans, friends and neighbours of the Main (where the stroll was located in 1970s Montreal) is taken much more literally.

I cried through most of the show.

I loved the way the chorus talked about how everyone was getting ready to attend Carmen’s big performance:  The gal who broke out her new 6” platform heels for the first time and would be seven feet tall that night, or the one who snapped off all her long, fake nails for the show; the one who spent an hour in the bubble bath getting ready, or the one who wore her biggest, best wig (“The one that pisses everybody off”).  The mingling of sexuality, sensuality, and femininity rang so perfectly true to my ears, dressing to show that the person we’re dressing for is worth the effort.  My girlfriend said it reminded her of the times she’s worn full leather to weddings and funerals, and how the people she was wearing them for – for the chosen family of the dead, for the happy couples – understood that she was wearing the equivalent of a full dress uniform complete with the sword and the medals.  That the writer understood this and had conveyed it to the audience was tremendously moving.

I loved that the concert was presented by the chorus, that they did this nebulous harmonic piece out-of-which rose solos in Gaelic and (I think) Cree.  The original play-write had asked the would-be director what he thought the play was about, and the answer had come back: It’s about the stories we tell about where we come from.  I think the translator did a beautiful job of bringing that out in this way.

Hearing these queer characters, these trans characters, these street-walker characters, say “She sang songs about me!  And she said I wasn’t ugly.  She even said that I was beautiful” just made me sob[2].

It was beautiful and heart-wrenching, and I cried a lot.  A LOT.

The run of the play is over (alas), but I’m so glad we made a point of going.  I hope they bring it back and/or that another company decides to do it in the near future.  It’s wonderful.

– Cheers,

– Ms. Syren.

[1] Though only about half the actors, going by the names and pronouns in their bios.

[2] It reminded me of the threads that pop up on speculative fiction blogs, talking about how when All The Characters are white and het and cis, the message the author (and the industry) are sending to readers who *aren’t* those things is “In my ideal world?  You don’t exist”.