In 1734, Marie Joseph Angélique, an enslaved Black woman known for her outspoken disdain towards servitude and her masters, set fire to Montréal, completely destroying a hospital and dozens of houses including her owner’s residence…or so the story goes.
Informed by historical transcripts from the infamous trial and set against the backdrop of Nouvelle-France, Lorena Gale’s award-winning musical Angélique investigates her life in the years leading up to the fire, seamlessly weaving between Canada’s oft-denied history of slavery to the timelessness of systemic racism in contemporary culture.
At the opening of the show, we learned how Factory and Obsidian Theatre worked alongside A Black Theatre Workshop and Tableau D’Hôte to finally bring Gale’s play to Toronto.
I will not focus on the plot in this piece, as I believe I cannot do justice to summarize the complex person Angélique was. Nor can I get into every detail of this story, as I believe you should experience this show for yourselves.
What I can share with you is that Angélique’s story is one of abuse, shattered dreams, yet hopeful and strong. Jenny Brizard as Angélique is commanding on stage. I could not keep my eyes off her… I watched her every move. I felt the anger, the pain, the love she brings to the role. Alongside an excellent cast including Olivier Lamarche as Claude, and Omari Newton as César, Brizard is a stand out. Next to France Rolland as Thérèse, she shows strength. The cast, in general, deliver a good performance.
The cast is complemented by Eo Sharp‘s excellent set design — a creative use of space, props, and ambiance. Sharp’s costume design left my companion and I a bit puzzled; nonetheless, it never took away from the importance of this story. Lighting design by David Perreault Ninacs also adds to the pace and mood of the play.
We were further taken into the story by SIXTRUM Percussion Ensemble‘s original music and score. I love percussion; the mix of instruments like marimba, drums, and other eclectic objects is impressive here. The music and sounds truly brought us further into the story. My senses were fully alert.
From director Mike Payette‘s notes, “Gale is… begging for discourse and empathy, while calling on each of us to deeply consider the social and cultural realities that make this piece as urgent as it was centuries ago.” I could not agree more. Thanks to the partnership among these theatre companies, we are able to learn more about this defiant and strong woman. This production challenges us to question the dynamics between privilege and power… and who are the people who have these luxuries. It also challenges us to examine and question Canadian history, and the version of this history we have been told. Very timely indeed.
Angélique continues at Factory Theatre until April 21, 2019. For showtimes and tickets, please visit factorytheatre.ca.