Singulières in Toronto

Singulières is a piece of theatre about single women in Québec, although the most remarkable things about the show are not what I expected.

Five women fill the stage of Crow’s Guloien Theatre with vibrant life, sometimes throbbing with joy, sometimes distressed and inconsolable. Some of what we see and hear is like documentary film, as though we’re watching Québec reality TV, courtesy of Théâtre Français de Toronto. They’re mostly speaking French but we have subtitles and lots of video.

There’s also a trigger warning, that the play tackles themes of emotional and sexual abuse.

The synopsis we were given in the program describes it this way:

Directed by one of Quebec’s fastest rising directors/auteurs, Alexandre Fecteau, Singulières is an unexpected, hilarious, and moving encounter with five “single ladies” from Quebec. This brilliantly imagined live-documentary, explodes with theatrical vitality, and follows the women in their 30s and 40s over two years, each of them living the single life with joy and purpose, all the while defying society’s expectations and redefining their own concepts of happiness, identity, and love.

As an Anglophone male decoding a mostly Francophone show with subtitles perhaps I’m the wrong person to lead you out of the labyrinth of imagery in Singulières, especially considering that I’m happy when I’m lost, not seeking to escape this kind of delicacy.

It’s an enjoyable evening of theatre, reminding me of some films I’ve seen about single life. Whether we’re speaking of Bridesmaids (2011) or How To Be Single (2016) to name two influential examples, the bar for what’s understood to be crude and disgusting keeps moving lower and lower with each decade, such that our ideas of what we understand as a comedy of manners keep getting revised with each change to what we understand by “normal” behavior. I mention those two because the women in Singulières are so much kinder and more sympathetic than much of what we see from Hollywood. While there is some horror reported from women on a couple of occasions, they have our sympathy, the pathos with which they’re shown at least makes them objects of a respectful gaze, avoiding the denigration or ridicule we sometimes see in films exploiting women.

The performances of the five women (Frédérique Bradet, Savina Figueras, Danielle Le Saux-Farmer, Nadia Girard Eddahia and Sophie Thibeault), taking us through so many brief snapshots of life, are energizing and inspiring.

For me the most exciting aspect of the presentation was the brilliant use of video. I was discussing Robert Lepage’s use of high resolution video in his 887 with Eric Woolfe, who used video in his own adaptation of Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness this past Tuesday. But in a few short years technology and mise en scene seem to have gone way beyond that in 2022, tonight’s show employing at least four cameras combining images onto three screens, sometimes including brilliant special effects.

Discussing possibilities of marriage with married friends while you’re apparently reduced to an ornament on top of a wedding cake?

The impossible illusion is on the screen above (Photo: Vincent Champoux)

Revisiting memories of your youth in close-ups?

A face seen inside the fishbowl?

Friends shown having drinks on an outdoor balcony?

We see it filmed onstage, see the illusory reality on the screen above (photo: Vincent Champoux)

We had both the theatricality of seeing how this was all assembled onstage combined with those remarkable illusions on one or more of the screens: a heady combination that’s unforgettable.

The team of David B. Ricard (Video Projections) and Billy Bergeron (Technical Director and Production Manager) brought this remarkable combination to us, taking advantage of the wonderfully pliable set designs of Ariane Sauvé.

Between Playwright Maxime Beauregard-Martin and Director Alexandre Fecteau, Singulières offers an interesting study in the culture of young women. Is Ontario’s culture different? I don’t know for sure. At times I felt I was observing a milieu that’s not like what we have here, partly because of language but partly because these women were all so nice, so likeable.

I wanted to join their party.

The play is mostly fun, and it’s never dull, presented at Crow’s Theatre until June 10th . You can find further information here.

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