Métis language to take centre stage at Le Cercle Molière


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This article was published 29/04/2010 (4489 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The closing play for next season at Le Cercle Molière theatre is already creating buzz — partly due to the fact the dialogue will be in French Michif, a dialect of Manitoba’s Métis.

It’s a first for the St. Boniface theatre company, which will premiere the new play next April.

“That is my understanding, that they’ve never focused on this language the way this play does,” said the La Salle-based playwright, Rhéal Cenerini.

Submitted Rhéal Cenerini’s newest play, Li Rvenant, features substantial parts of the dialogue in French Michif, a dialct spoken by some Métis in Manitoba.

The play — Li Rvenant — takes place in a fictional Manitoba community of Métis fishermen.

The main character returns to his village after being exiled with a mission, Cenerini said.

Because of the setting, he said, it only made sense to write the dialogue in French Michif.

“The Metis language, if we could use that phrase, is a very diverse thing,” Cenerini explained, who is not Metis himself.

Some dialects more closely resemble their aboriginal language roots, while French Michif has more in common with its European side.

Cenerini said French speakers will recognize most of the dialect, while some phrases may appear strange to them.

“It would almost be like comparing Acadian French to the French you would hear in Paris.”

Cenerini said he has been very conscious during the writing process that a play written mainly in the French Michif dialect may not be as accessible to the public.

However, the beauty of the language and the appropriateness of its use considering the themes of the play, won him over.

“I think any difficulty the audience will have in understanding at first will be compensated,” he said.

“That kind of musical nature or characteristic (of French Michif) is beautiful to listen to.”

Roland Mahé, Cercle Molière’s artistic director, agreed that accessibility should not be an issue as the company will be very careful to create an audience-friendly exposure to the language. The play also includes some dialogue in French and English as well.

Mahé added the response so far has been encouraging.

“The buzz is in the community right now, we can feel it,” he said, adding the theatre company has previously staged three of Cenerini’s works.

“It’s a very profound play, and it’s a very interesting play,” Mahé said, describing the main character as a mix between Louis Riel and Jesus Christ.

As for Cenerini, he said the play is also a way to pay homage to an important part of Manitoba’s culture and history.

“It’s high time to highlight the contribution that culture and that language had made,” he said.


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