Set in a time when hysteria was considered a treatable condition and women were subject to the whims of their husbands, La Troupe du Jour’s latest production sTain (La MaculÃ©e) explores the repercussions of religious dogma on the mind.
For those who are not familiar with La Troupe du Jour’s work, they are a francophone theatre company that operates in Saskatchewan. If you don’t speak French, it doesn’t matter. Their productions are accompanied by English subtitles. It’s a worthwhile group that, frankly, doesn’t get enough anglophone attention. Even if you’re wretched at French (like me) you will be surprised at how well you can keep up.
The story follows the memories of FranÃ§oise, a devout Catholic Quebecois woman living in the harsh Saskatchewan prairie. Raising children with her husband Bernard, she suffers a nervous breakdown at the hands of her husband’s abrupt conversion to Protestantism. When he uses her in a cruel tactic to gain followers at a religious “revival,” her sanity slips away and he commits her to a psychiatric hospital in North Battleford where the resident doctor takes a specific interest in her claims of stigmata and visions of the Virgin Mary.
Written in French by Saskatchewan-born playwright Madeleine Blais-Dahlem and inspired by stories she learned from her mother as a child, the entire production is Saskatchewan-heavy in content, themes and actors, the desolate terrain of the newly settled province provides the mental backdrop for the audience.
Marie-Claire Marcotte plays the main character magnificently. Marcotte, originally from Saskatoon, has studied drama around the world and is also a playwright working with La Troupe du Jour on upcoming productions. She was, without a doubt, the most unforgettable part of this entire play.
The set is extremely modern and minimalistic for a play set in the ’20s. Entirely white, the set hearkens to the name of the play sTain (La MaculÃ©e).
Overall, the play attempts to make an old story relatable to modern audiences. The play centres on issues concerning mental health, women and faith and, specifically, ways in which women are used and abused by their religions. The playwright noted that it is a trend that perseveres to this day and the audience leaves with that theme resonating.
The director of the play, Marie-Eve Gagnon, is a Quebec import whose cutting edge style pushed the actors to extreme lengths, and it shows. The drama of the production is high-strung at times and extremely moving when it eventually slows and unravels.
sTain is extremely accessible and touching; If you’re looking for a new experience in theatre I recommend seeing this play immediately.