The holiday lights are officially on in the streets of Montreal and I can’t help but feel a warming in my heart too. It’s the sense that we’re all in this together – in a collective celebration of the holiday season. This feeling of ineffable shared experience is one of the reasons why people are drawn to the theatre at this time of year…
Among Montreal’s unique theatrical offerings this season is Ana, a visually stunning co-production between Montreal’s Imago Theatre and Scotland’s Stellar Quines, taking place at Francophone Quebecois cultural institution Espace Go, November 22 to December 10.
“Edinburgh and Montreal are both seen as capitals for festivals, which is interesting, but rarely do we see productions that have been co-created with artists, on stage, off stage, in all aspects,” says Clare Schapiro, Imago’s Artistic and General Director. “That makes it very exciting. We’ve been working with the amazing Quebec theatre director Serge Denoncourt for three years, and Muriel Remanis, artistic director of Stellar Quines since 2005 and here we are now, with a full production that is not only bilingual, but has Scots actors speaking French, Montreal actors speaking English, as well as many other languages.”
Ana’s story spans thousands of years, inspired by the Sumerian myth of the goddess Inanna, who could split herself and be in more than one place at a time. We follow shape-shifter Ana as she makes choices that lead her from a roadside circus lead by a ringmaster, throughout time, around the world and through myth, fiction and reality that paint a picture of women’s history.
The ties between Quebec and Scotland also inspired the creative process of the play, with issues of identity, independence and politics coming to the forefront. “There are similarities in our cultures and our politics and yet we are also so different,” says Schapiro. In her experience of rehearsing Ana in Montreal, Scottish actor Frances Thorburn says, “Many Scots have a lot of fire in their belly – there’s a lot of passion that you can’t create artificially, it just exists in people as a spirit of who they are. I think that is apparent in both Scots and Quebecois people, and the kind of passion I see on stage here has been exciting to me.”
Along with Ana, the Montreal stage lights up this season with more universal stories. Three productions at the Centaur Theatre delight in different ways: modern comedy of manners God of Carnage (to December 4), Christmas hockey comedy-drama Four Minutes If You Bleed (November 24 to December 3) and the adult-oriented cabaret Urban Tales (December 8–17).
Montreal’s great Black Theatre Workshop sits down at the dinner table to tell of a journey from Africa to Canada in Stori Ya, while Teesri Duniya Theatre takes a personal look at the Israel/Palestine conflict. And boxing, though not Boxing Day, enters the domestic ring in Cornered at Theatre Sainte Catherine (November 23 to December 3). And last but absolutely not least, what would the holiday stage be without the annual production of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens‘ The Nutcracker (December 10–30)?