As the saying goes, ‘if these walls could talk…’, what would they say? Well, Les murs on des yeux (The Walls Have Eyes) by Le Collectif Les murs ont des yeux playing at the 2017 Toronto Fringe festival explores just that. Five rooms of a house are uniquely personified as they discover together the evidence of domestic violence within their walls. This show is in French with English subtitles. Passionate acting, clear concept, and a very real language barrier made for an interesting experience.
An audience bustling with enthusiastic French speakers set a lovely tone. Four white half-doors and one stool line up along the challenging stage–challenging for its long length and shallow depth.
This challenge was met well with straightforward blocking: each door represents a room of the house: fixed and unable to see what happens in another room. If not a very dynamic choice, it was at least clear.
Clarity is of the essence for my experience as an Anglophone. I was torn between simply watching the actors, letting the language I don’t speak wash over me, and fastidiously reading the subtitles so as not to miss the finer points.
At times the subtitles fell behind the speech. At another, they disappeared completely. I’m not sure that was meant to happen, but I didn’t feel lost without them.
The actors were clear and naturally comfortable with the stage. The characters, if a bit archetypal, were pure and honest. Genviève Fontaine and Barbara-Audrey Bergeron, Salle de Bain (Washroom) and Salle à Manger (Dining Room), respectively, were particularly impactful.
While the concept of hearing what one’s house has to say, particularly regarding the violence that hides within it, is one I can fully rally behind, I found this version to be focused on a prequel perspective of the house’s story.
The current event felt like what we discover toward the end (no spoilers), and the choice the rooms made together was the start of something epic. I wasn’t fully behind them until we knew the depth of the despair being felt, which came in later than I would have thought for such a short show.
Nonetheless, I was still pulled along with this story. I also found myself enjoying the simple pleasure of hearing French spoken over me by rich voices. I wonder, were I to see it again, if I would gain more from simply listening and watching the actors, even if I was missing the specifics.
I wonder also if a French speaker would experience this entirely differently, having a direct and nuanced relationship with the original language. A lack of bustling voices after the show left me with no clues.
Easily the most moving aspect of this show was the singing voice of powerhouse Michèle Tredger. She took us by storm off the top and left us aching in her wake by the end.
A show that somehow managed to approach a heavy subject through a quirky, even ridiculous concept, never teetered into indulgence or melodrama. This is a straightforward show to catch between your other heavy hitters.
- Les Murs ont des yeux plays at the Tarragon Extraspace. (30 Bridgman Ave.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- This venue is barrier-free. Patrons who use wheelchairs or who cannot climb stairs are seated in the front row.
- Thursday July 6th, 09:00 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 02:00 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 08:00 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 11:15 pm
- Friday July 14th, 12:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 07:00 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 04:15 pm
Photo of Barbara-Aubrey Bergeron, Alex Nanot, Geneviève Fontaine, Michèle Tredger by Nouvelle-Alliance