Edouard Ferlet

Nancy Huston, Robert Le Page: images worth thousands of words

It would have been better to know the book Infrared, Infrarouge, before Nancy Huston's reading/concert last night. Instead, I read about the book beforehand, because, while I understand much of what I hear in French, I still miss a lot, and if I am missing too much, I drift. This brilliant writer, several of whose books I have read, including Cantique des plaines (en francais), knows how to deliver a performance that, for me, enhanced the text I only partially understood, cause de la langue. Pianist Édouard Ferlet augmented the rhythms of her phrases and the word play. Under his fingers, music rippled like water  that occasionally foamed exuberantly over the hard - sometimes literally hard - protuberances of the narrative. At points he abandoned the keys to play directly on the strings of the grand piano. A black piano. Édouard dressed in black, except for his feet, in red shoes. Nancy also in black, but with red sandals and a long red scarf that she arranged in various ways to differentiate characters.
During breaks in the reading, Édouard took over and Nancy moved close to listen, leaning on the piano like a jazz singer, or dancing around the sanctuary of the chapelle au musée de l'amèrique francophone, beneath the soaring, almost cylindrical, vault. In this season of yet another grand controverse in Quebec, about whether or not Quebec identity  might be compromised by government employees wearing ostentatious signs of religion, such as the hijab, it seemed that Nancy was directly challenging the full house of Quebeckers to notice that her head was wrapped in a red foulard here in this former Roman Catholic chapel.  The music, the varied inflections of her voice, as she moved from character to character, the red and black. Visual and aural images produced an effect similar to the infrared photography she uses as a metaphor.

Imagery, of course, is Robert Le Page's genius, and in the revival of Les Aguilles et Opium at Theatre Trident, he chose a revolving cube, (if that is not a contradiction) into and out of which moved his autobiographical character Robert, the literally airborne
Jean Cocteau, and a mute Miles Davis. Dizzying at moments, when it was hard to tell which was the floor, which the ceiling, the image nevertheless served the non-linear time scheme of the piece. Like thought, which is random and surprising, which collects and twins ideas and memories.