Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/3/2011 (3363 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The final offering of the current Cercle Molière season, Rhéal Cenerini's Li Rvinant, which opened Friday night, is a new play, by an established Franco-Manitoban author. What sets it apart is that it is written entirely in Mitchif, the distinctive French-Cree language of the Métis. The dialogue is easy to follow and has a pleasing, musical quality.
The text reads like a latter-day morality play. It is Marxist in its economic analysis of a Métis community that lives by fishing, dramatic in the interaction of the characters, and heavily allegorical in tracing the life and death of James, a messianic Christ-like protagonist seeking to change the people's way of life for the better. The action is structured around fourteen tableaux, modelled loosely on the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross depicting the sufferings of Christ.
The plot entails the return of James after an absence of eight years. He has had a spiritual, mountain-top experience in which he feels called to bring new life to his people, the Métis. Like Jesus, his arrival begins to create waves within the community as his new ideas disturb the status quo. Especially, the influence of the Roman Catholic priest, and Ed Champagne, nicknamed "The Emperor", who has a virtual monopoly of the local economy.
On the one hand, James is a dreamy visionary, someone who does not fit in to the community since he has no job, sleeps in the forest and makes others uncomfortable by his questions and his very presence.
On the other, he seemingly works miracles, raising the dead and re-enacting Jesus' miraculous catch of fish for his disciples. His claim that Jesus was himself Métis, being both human and God, inevitably raises eye-brows and opposition.
Trouble really begins when he proposes to break the monopoly of the "Emperor" by starting a Co-Op of fishermen.
There are interesting elements to this production, which involves a large cast of fifteen actors. Medieval icons of scenes from the life of Jesus are simultaneously projected above the stage and also on the floor, immersing the unfolding action in Biblical parallels. Settings are evoked by simple props rather than elaborate décor, and the actors sit on a bench at the back of the stage, rather like players in a baseball team, which gives the sense of a community always watching and waiting to springw into action. Emilie Chartier provided sparse but evocative music on fiddle and native drum.
The production is anchored by very creditable performances from: Vincent Dureault, as Ed Champagne; Christian Beaudry, as James; Janique Lavallée, as Maddy; and Gabriel Gosselin, as James' brother-in-law, Pierre. Overall, the production successfully manages to shift back and forth between the realistic depiction of a small Métis settlement, fraught with familial and economic tensions, and the symbolic, Biblical archetypes which inform and dictate the unfolding plot. Part play, part sermon, this production challenges us to reflect on the extent to which we are all called to be "echoes" of Christ in transforming our respective communities.
. Li Rvinant
. By Rhéal Cenerini
. March 11-April 2
. Centre- Culturel Franco-Manitobain
.... out of five
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.