Alain Mercieca is not sure if he’ll get to have a swordfight in the eighth incarnation of DéPFLIES entitled Deprazent. The situation sounds tragic. I suggest he uses a Medieval-style tam tam axe, but he has his heart on the sword.
“I want a sword. I’m trying to fight with my actors for a sword,” he says. “I could use one of those big medieval weapons but it’s too clownesque. A real sword commands a Shakespearean authority.”
In some theatres, cost is the primary reason for cutting a particular prop. “A few actors thought it was too dangerous,” Mercieca explains. “We’re punk rock theatre. We love improv and don’t over-rehearse. There’s a scene where I’m supposed to have a sword, but no one was pro-me having a sword.” Perhaps it has to do with Mercieca’s approach to acting which he sums up as, “I had a real theatre actor who was performing with us once. She was like what ‘I’m supposed to do,’ and I’m like, ‘Fall to the ground.’ I just fall. It’s more fun. It’s more engaging. There’s something to be said for choreography, but I like punk rock, throwing your body around to have fun.”
I think I see the cast’s point.
Sword or not, the latest DéPFLIES continues to satirize contemporary life in Montreal. Protagonist and former dep owner Peter hopes to win back his store from condo developers. The plot takes inspiration from events Mercieca sees around him every day in St. Henri and his experiences a theatre operator in Montreal.
“He owned the dep with his sisters and in the last DéPFLIES, they sold him out. He had no money. A lot of these issues apply to me in my life in running the theatre. What if a condo developer offered 15 million for the theatre? You could fund all this other stuff, all these other theatre projects. There are valid arguments and I place myself in those shoes. A condo is a place of residence, but at what point do you fight back?”
Mercieca has a complicated stance on gentrification well aware that it is not a simple issue. “We take down old style buildings and they have character,” he says. “We rip them down for boring, functional architectural crap and that’s the thing that bothers me most. Sure, we have to develop and clean areas up. It’s a natural process. Renaissance. Regeneration. You can call me a romantic, but it’s sad when those buildings with character are taken down.”
He points to a protest in St. Henri held after a house from the 1800s was torn down. “Overnight they came in and destroyed it,” he says. “There was a protest. It’s crazy how fast it was done. I played on that and it inspired me. To me, dépaneurs are part of our historical heritage, the architectural heritage. Some regard them as just a consumerist market place, but there’s a beauty to them.”
This episode has a smaller cast than the previous one, but the core is around and improv goddess Sandi Armstrong is back. “I’ve pared it down,” Mercieca says. “Last time it went well, but it was a bit wild.” And although this episode continues the story of the previous installment, it’s not necessary to have seen DéPFLIES 7 to understand the story or the characters. It stands on its own.
“I try to balance down to earth comedy with extreme poetry,” says Mercieca. “I love monologues. I love the drama of Shakespeare. I merge the two forms. Usually it’s a two hour play. The show can’t joke it up the whole time. I also don’t want a show that takes itself too seriously. It’s tragi-comedy. Shakespeare was really good at it.”
“It’s absurd and similar to television-style comedy, I would say, but then there’s also high drama and serious issues.”
“For people who have seen them all, I ask ‘Why is this DéPFLIES different?'” Mercieca asks rhetorically. “This one has a teaser associated with it. There’s sword fighting, extreme fight scenes, and even a torture beer scene. It’s messy. It should be messy and it will be fun.”
If you’re burning to know whether Mercieca gets his sword, there’s only one way to find out.
DéPFLIES 8: Deprazent is at the Theatre St. Catherine (264 St. Catherine E) on September 25, 26, 27, and October 2, 3, and 4. 8 p.m. $12