Forget the storms, the cold, the children, the job. Just get on the phone and reserve your tickets for Bus Stops (written and directed by Marilyn Perrault, translated by Nadine Desrocher). It is the most extraordinary theatrical experience you are likely to have in years. This work is a fusion of acrobatics, theatre and dance which forces one to re-examine some very fundamental prejudice and re-think stereotypes. The set literally de-constructs during the performance because Patrice Charbonneau-Brunelle has created a terrific design which works on a multitude of levels. The video design by Thierry Francis and lighting and 3D by Martin Gagne were stunning. The sound and the music by Michael Leon was outstanding and created a kind of psychological sub-text which gave the work a fourth dimension.
The story about a bus which blows up is also a metaphor for all our worst fears. We know it will happen and yet like a Greek tragedy we cannot take our eyes off the stage. The performers are magical and are just as brilliant in acrobatics as they are mesmerizing in dance. Victoria Diamond was riveting as the young student. Her insouciance made her unexpected fate poignant, and her ability on the bars of the bus was noteworthy. Nora Guerch gave a heart breaking interpretation of a nurse in love. Alexandre Lavigne was utterly and terrifyingly convincing. Annie Ranger broke our hearts as a love sick waitress who gave the play a fantastic sense of whimsy. Hugues Sarra-Bournet was outstanding as Henri, the guilt ridden and taciturn bus driver. Victor Andrés Trelles Turgeon gave a delightful and sensitive performance as the alienated in-assimilable immigrant.
When I directed in French last year I was often asked what the major difference was. In the French system a play can take as long as five or six months as opposed to the three weeks for an English production. The number of hours may be the same, but the actors have the opportunity to work on the text and the movement on their own between rehearsals, and this gives the work a much better sense of ensemble and preparedness. Marilyn Perreault, who also played the coroner who investigates the event, had a very clear idea of what she wanted to create, and certainly seemed to have the time to do a magnificent job. The integration of circus and dance with the acting of multiple and complex personae was beautifully realised.
Go out and do whatever it takes, but do not miss this play!
Bus Stops is at The Centaur Theatre until March 27. 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. matinees. Get tickets HERE.