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'King Dave' by Alexandre Goyette

English language premiere now onstage at Montréal’s Centaur Theatre

Andrée Lanthier. Pictured: Patrick Emmanuel Abellard

Joe Szekeres

A bravura solo performance by Patrick Emmanuel Abellard makes ‘King Dave’ a worthwhile theatre outing.

Patrick Emmanuel Abellard plays Dave, described on the Centaur Theatre website as a charismatic young Haitian Canadian man and his struggle to survive and thrive in the streets of Montréal. This kingdom of Montréal is not one of magisterial pleasantries and manners. At times, this Montréal and its denizens bleed raw regarding racial injustices, gun violence and ultimate revenge.

But it’s Dave’s kingdom. He calls the shots and accepts responsibility for his actions in everything he does and speaks from so-called friends who turn their backs on him to criminal activity that cannot be ignored.

In the process, Dave endures a myriad of emotions and feelings of pain, fear, and heartache while trying to remain as calm as possible and human as he can. He utilizes humour to defuse the tension of the plot to combat the struggles that may just threaten to destroy who he is. Thankfully the humour never ventures into a stand-up comedy routine. Dave’s romantic encounter provides a brief respite. That fleeting one-night stand becomes a distant memory with the drama that is to follow.

It’s a bare stage save for a couple of road cases, a piano/keyboard, some microphone stands, and two rolling stools placed around the stage. That’s it.

Abellard walked onto the stage opening night to raucous applause. He appeared rather selfless in accepting the accolades but told us to keep talking amongst ourselves while he checked some of the onstage props and a few of the lighting cues. Hmmm…wouldn’t something like this be checked before the audience enters the auditorium?

Was this intentional? Was it a fluke that a backstage crew member or Abellard himself forgot to do this?
Didn’t matter to me. It all just added to the experience we are about to see a real person appear before us.

And that’s exactly what happened for the next nearly two uninterrupted hours.

Wearing a reddish-brown hoodie underneath a coat, comfortable-looking trousers, and dark running shoes, Abellard takes us on a self-discovery journey which at times is horrifying, terrifying and vulgar to watch and hear.

But this English language premiere remains so compelling that I wanted to see where Abellard would take me.

Alexandre Goyette’s script is viscerally earthy and unabashedly crude at times peppered with dashes of Creole and Québec joual. The story remains intense, and a lot of information is thrown at the audience so pay close attention. No city and its residents are picture-perfect and Goyette doesn’t shy away from presenting what is credibly real.

Christian Fortier directs ‘King Dave’ with assured confidence. There is always a clear purpose and reason why Abellard moves from one part of the stage to the next. A slight quibble, though, was having him appear just a tad too far upstage for some of the keynote addresses to the audience. I sat in the fourth row and found that the physical distance was just a tad too far for me to make any connection to Abellard. If I felt that way, I wonder what those in the back may have been thinking or feeling. Hopefully, this slight distraction can be looked at once again.

Patrick Emmanuel Abellard masterfully delivers a nearly two-hour solo performance that remains solidly grounded and electrically charged. He wants us to listen to what he has to say, and he succeeds in doing so.

A theatre pick to see if you are in Montréal’s Vieux-Port over the next couple of weeks.

Running time: approximately two hours with no intermission.

‘King Dave’ runs until April 16 at Montréal’s Centaur Theatre, 453 St. Francois-Xavier. For tickets call (514) 288-3161 or visit www.centaurtheatre.com.

CENTAUR THEATRE Company presents the English language premiere of
The Théâtre Duceppe Production of

'King Dave’ by Alexandre Goyette

Adapted in collaboration with Anglesh Major
Translated and performed by Patrick Emmanuel Abellard
Directed by Christian Fortin
Set and Costume Design: Xavier Mary
Lighting Designer: Renaud Pettigrew
Composer and Sound Designer: Jenny Salgado
Stage Manager: Melanie St-Jacques

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