Corruption, Misinformation and Sex

Requiem Pour un Trompettiste Inspired by Film Noir, Political Scandal

  • Photo Aurélien Muller

The play starts in a hotel room with a beautiful naked woman getting out of bed, lighting a cigarette, and taking a swig of whiskey.

It also starts in a mayor’s office, as city employees try to put a spin on a local tragedy. Which side of this story you see first depends on which sign you decide to follow.

After collecting a ticket from the box office, your choices are: follow a sign that says “Hôtel” to a stage directly off the lobby, or follow a sign that says “Maire” through a maze of stairs and hallways to a stage which ends up being directly behind the “Hôtel.”

The result is an audience sitting in the same room on opposite sides of two walls that divide it in half. A window in the mayor’s office parallels one in the hotel room. Blinds are pulled and drawn in an expert choreography between the two disconnected spaces.

The two plays occasionally interact through those windows in subtle or substantial ways as they progress. Since each blackout affects both sides of the stage, the actors have to always maintain a perfect pacing for the shows to be in sync.

Some of the characters stay segregated throughout the performance while others, such as the mayor, move between the two worlds. At intermission, the audience navigates its way back through the maze to see the other side.

Writing what is essentially two highly charged one-act plays which cleverly intersect is a feat that could easily require filler lines and moments in order to function smoothly, but playwright Claude Guilmain never lets the challenging concept affect his show.

Requiem is seamless, entertaining, engaging; all the elements are thoroughly realized. In fact, the play is such a high-calibre piece of entertainment that it would be easy to miss the scathing political statement Guilmain is making.

The situation that inspired the play is a case of water contamination dubbed “The Walkerton Tragedy,” named after the small Ontario town where E. coli bacteria contaminated the water supply and killed at least seven people.

“I was astonished that Mike Harris got re-elected,” said Guilmain. “Just the same way I couldn’t believe George W. Bush was re-elected. But you make the right promises at the right time, or you scare people the right way, and they just go for it.”

In the play, Guilmain’s morally bankrupt mayor is facing a similar public heath scandal to the one the Ontario government faced in 2000 with Walkerton. Requiem’s mayor presides over the same kind of misinformation campaign and scapegoat hunt as then-Ontario premier Mike Harris appeared to have done.

According to Guilman, when it comes to government corruption going unchecked, “the citizens let it happen.”

“I was astonished that Mike Harris got re-elected,” said Guilmain. “Just the same way I couldn’t believe George W. Bush was re-elected. But you make the right promises at the right time, or you scare people the right way, and they just go for it.”

Requiem strives to hold a mirror up to the corruption in Ontario politics specifically, but in a way which could easily reference corruption in any political office.

“When there was an inquiry,” Guilmain said of the Walkerton Tragedy, “it was clear the Conservatives skated around all the issues […] and it just went away, like it always does.”

Requiem pour un trompettiste comes to Montreal as part of Espace Libre’s season of out-of-province French productions. The play is produced by the Toronto-based company Théâtre la Tangente, one of only two professional French-language theatres in the city.

Despite that fact, Guilmain said that there’s “a fairly large audience-base, but not for original work. Even producing English theatre in Toronto is a struggle for the small, creative companies.”

He added that, because of Toronto’s penchant for spectacle over creativity, “There’s a lot more original stuff going on in Montreal.”

Moving to Toronto is not a fate that any Montrealer would wish on their worst enemy, but it’s comforting to know that should it happen, Théâtre La Tangente is there providing creative, entertaining French-language shows that can ease some of the homesickness.

Requiem pour un trompettiste / Espace Libre (1945 Fullum St.) / Jan. 10 to Jan. 21 /$22.00 student, $29.00 regular / 514-328-7437 espacelibre.qc.ca

By commenting on this page you agree to the terms of our Comments Policy.