REVIEW: ANGÉLIQUE Takes Flight Out of the Attics of National Remembrance
Asheda Dwyer reviews Black Theatre Workshop and Tableau D’Hôte Theatre’s co-production of Lorena Gale’s ANGÉLIQUE, presented in its Toronto premiere by Factory and Obsidian Theatre:
Angélique is an indictment and an overruling. It denies the voyeurism of trauma-pornography obscuring the national archives. Lorena Gale, the Canadian actress, playwright, and theatre director who wrote the award-winning play, has been confined to the attics of this remembrance for a lengthy sentence.
The reappearance of this masterwork is evidence of this, in the first touring of its kind in over two decades. Angélique was first produced by The Alberta Theatre Projects as part of its annual playRites Festival of New Canadian Plays in 1998. Since late 2018, Ottawa and Montreal have both witnessed restaging of Angélique, with Toronto as its third stop.
The small stature of Jenny Brizard simulates Angélique with an erupting-fierceness. Consistent to felsic lava forming igneous rock, Brizard endows Angélique with extended ontological range—from the icy resolution of her frequent “oui monsieur” to skittish enthusiasm with her lover Claude (played with a cunning nimbleness by Olivier Lamarche). The remainder of the cast is embroiled in its own set of calamities pressurized by her presence.
The marriage between Francois, played by Karl Graboshas, and France Rolland, as Therese, interpolate the aridity of upper class marriage, while the suppressed union between Cesar (Omari Newton) and Manon (PJ Prudat) is marked by a presence of denial. The colonial-comicality of Ignace, played by Chip Chuipka, is exaggerated through the lofty egoisms that animate settler-masculinity globally.
The directorial precision of Mike Payette—who previously served the Black Theatre Workshop, Canada’s longest-running Black Theatre Company, as assistant Artistic Director—retains the fiery-wit of Gale, while rigorously leading an astute production. The depictions of Black-Indigenous solidarity, in particular, hold a sustained, cinematic resonance, awaiting further representation of the recorded intra-relations between these communities.
Sounding the name Marie-Joseph Angélique at the 1734 trial conjures the spectacle of a brutalizing spectre, shaped by the profiteering of colonial judgment-termed-justice. Angélique is an interpretive tack into this precedent, and her enigmatic life the subjective-centre of its underside. Angélique’s gravitational pull stirs audiences to labour through the existential paradoxes marking the doubly denied personhood of black womanhood. No matter where you sit in the audience, you are edging this negation, in the form of the anterior view of the gallows. This sight of imminent death remains one of the many possibilities mandated by the laws of The Code Noir.
Most of the production’s lighting comes from above the stage, where the ensemble co-navigates spatial limitations with auditory knowledge. These transmissions remind us that cultures of sound formed part of the commodities stolen, sold, and shipped as cargo across the Atlantic.
Designed by Eo Sharp, who is also responsible for the production’s anachronistic costuming, Angélique is contained within the pathways of a harrowing stage, erected as semi-enclosure with a multi-use, rectangular platform. Coloured evenly in rich, mahogany brown, the built-form of the gallows competes with the surrounding darkness, swallowing the absence of light, of space, of being.
Yet, Gale’s Angelique defies the deaths of-and-beyond her time with a piercing light, in full flight.
Asheda Dwyer is an emerging cultural critic, based in Toronto. She is an alumna of the inaugural cohort of the Performance Criticism Training Program (PCTP) with Generator. Her writing has appeared in Caribbean Quarterly, Shameless Magazine, Now Magazine, and The Ethnic Aisle.