Théatre Français and Théatre la Catapulte presents Le Dire de Di playing in Toronto
It’s not about what you remember or why you remember, in Théatre Français and Théatre la Catapulte‘s Le Dire de Di playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre, it’s the weight of those memories that make them real.
Taking a poetic journey into nature, society, and science, Le Dire de Di finds itself bogged down by words despite an incredible performance.
Sixteen—almost 17-year-old Di (she dropped the ‘ane) played by Marie-Ève Fontaine, lives in a house surrounded by woods and fields with her idyllic family: father Paclay, mother Makati (actually named Katerine) and her mother’s boyfriend Mario Marneau. All that changes when Peggy, a woman working for a mining company encounters Di one day in the woods.
Prose, symbolism, and metaphor become central to Di’s deconstruction and reconstruction of the past. It’s both integral to the ambiance of the play, stressing the surreal existence of her family in the woods, but also I thought, kind of tedious.
However, I want to start with the good in this production in order to get to the heart of why I was deeply underwhelmed.
First of all, the set by Michael Spence absolutely nails the atmosphere. A series of frames hung suspended from the ceiling, twisting back in a way that resembled that strange effect created by looking at a mirror reflected in a mirror. With Fontaine positioned in her chair amidst those frames, it looked like an unreal portrait trick. I honestly haven’t seen such a smart sparse set in a while and it was beautiful.
On top of a great set, was Fontaine herself: charming, petty, young, naive, righteous. I don’t like Le Dire de Di but there is not a bad word to be said about the show’s lead. For me, its the little moments where she switches, on a dime, from delivering unending poetic monologues, to lapsing back into the schoolgirlish childishness that the character demands.
She took some eye-rolling moments, such as a very specific incident involving sexual awakening and a robin’s egg, and gave them incredible weight. Di might be an unreliable narrator, but Fontaine gives her thoughts and memories purpose. The point is how this kid feels about those pieces of memory, irrespective if they’re real or not.
So you might be wondering why I felt so meh about the show.
Le Dire de Di is a play that is as much about its wordiness as it is about the metaphors and symbolism. Everything in Michel Ouellette’s text speaks to enjoying that fullness you get when you pontificate as a 17 year-old—so far so good—but sitting through an hour and a half of it was like sitting through a 17 year-old being angsty.
Sometimes its nice to just listen to poetry, sometimes its tiring.
For myself, there was just too much in the way of saying things that sounded deep but seemed to take up time in the story. Ouellette has a lot to say about anything and everything. Yes, sometimes it was beautiful, but man by the fifth or sixth tangent—especially the one calling out the audience voyeurism and blackholes—I was ready to get the show on the road.
I didn’t find there to be much balance in the amount of descriptors thrown at me. Director Joël Beddows felt very conscious of exactly how much speaking the audience is expected to take in. There is a a strange, jarring interlude of choreography for the hatching of a bird (a euphemism), that felt to me like it was there to take a break from the text.
At the same time, Beddows is very focused on the words of the piece. Fontaine is crystal clear in her delivery, never allowing the audience to miss a single syllable. So at the forefront of the action is the script and the script is, well, like one of those icing flowers on a store bought cake.
Le Dire de Di is a lot of extra details added to your plate and I just got tired of it after a while.
- Le Dire de Di runs until January 28, 2018 at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)
- Shows run Saturday at 3:30 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm
- Tickets range from $26-$49 for regular admission, $26-42 for seniors, and $19-$25 for artists and under 30
- Tickets can be purchased by phone at 416-534-6604, in person at the Berkeley Street Theatre box office prior to the start of show, and online here
- Rush tickets for $20 are available at the box office on the Saturday performance
Photo of Marie-Ève Fontaine by Marc Lemyre