‘Singulières’

Crow’s Theatre and Théâtre Français de Toronto present a Le Collectif Nous Sommes Ici, Le Théâtre Catapulte and La Bordée Coproduction

Theatre Francais de Toronto

Joe Szekeres

This ‘Singulières’ remains timely and appropriate given the status of our woke culture

About halfway through this critical documentary theatre production, it suddenly dawned on me the important relevance of ‘Singulières’.

The last two years of the pandemic have seen the rise of Black Lives Matter, #metoo, and a myriad of other social justice issues which have had their place and deserved consideration.

It’s time to consider the role of women. This may sound oddly out of place, but this topic of women and defining what the term means has pre-occupied the minds of many who believe the term cannot be defined or identified in our woke culture.

Just recently, Conservative Matt Walsh from The Daily Wire produced his fearless documentary film “What is a Woman” billed as questioning the basic logic of this term that many either are reluctant to answer, don’t want to answer, choose not to answer or are afraid to answer. I haven’t seen the film yet but am planning to watch it because I want to hear what he has to say, so don’t jump down my back because I haven’t seen it at this point.

However, in preparation for the film after watching this timely and appropriate ‘Singulieres’, I felt the play vitally focuses on the question of what it means to be a woman (and Quebecois and single).

Staged at Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre, the following information is taken from the website:

“Directed by one of Québec’s fastest rising directors/auteurs, Alexandre Fecteau, SINGULIÈRES is an unexpected, hilarious, and moving encounter with five “single ladies” from Québec and follows the women in their 30s and 40s over two years, each of them living the single life with joy and purpose, all the while defying society’s expectations and redefining their own concepts of happiness, identity, and love. “

Fecteau uniquely stages the production in what appears to be a set design of a functioning television studio, perhaps Radio Canada or the CBC (cleverly designed by Ariane Sauvé). In the centre of the stage is a round turn table on which there are small set pieces used as locales when the women speak on camera. Upstages right and left are green screens where the artist will speak into the camera, and when the audience looks at the screen a backdrop is placed behind the artist. I’ve seen this done on Zoom calls recently where some have decided not to show the room in which they are sitting so an AI setting is used instead. There are television cameras that freely move about the playing space where the actors are filmed.

And then we are introduced to Jordan, Joelle, Zaya, Nathalie and Rose and listen to their stories as they live single lives in Québec and how they are coping. At times, their stories are juxtaposed with black and white filmed responses from what I am supposing were Québec women in the late 60s/early 70s and describing what life was like in the feminist movement then and perhaps their place within it. At one point, there were men describing the role of women at that time, and their understanding is VERY DIFFERENT from the way the Québecois women saw themselves and their place in the world.

To give away too much of ‘Singulières’ plot would spoil the very reason why audiences need to see this production. There were a few of us men in the audience on the Sunday matinee, and I do hope more see it this week before it closes. There is a digital presentation upon the closure of the play, and I will include that information near the end of the review.

Suffice it to say the play shuns how women evade traditional stereotypes of marriage, motherhood and monogamy. This strongly confident ensemble of ladies (Frédérique Bradet, Savina Figueras, Danielle Le Saux-Farmer, Nadia Girard Eddahia and Sophie Thibeault) strongly and grittily tackle these stereotypical themes and sometimes narrate what it means for them to be a woman through stories, sometimes of humour but also horrifically of abuse and sexual assault. I came away from this production ultimately believing that there are some issues where there are certain private female moments felt and experienced that I can’t understand.

Even playwright Maxime Beauregard-Martin wrote in his online Programme Note: “How could I possibly do justice to a situation that was simultaneously so intimate and foreign from my own?” From my male perspective, he accomplished what he set out to do. Yes, men can follow the storyline of women. Yes, men can have intimate encounters with women; however, that intimacy which the playwright discovers is something only a born woman can only and truly understand what another born woman feels and experiences.

I hope that the previous comment becomes a conversation starter rather than looking upon it as getting into hot water. Some dynamite performance moments in ‘Singulières’ made me feel uncomfortable concerning the subject material, but that’s what a good artist must do in front of a live audience regardless of sex or gender as I paid strict attention to what was taking place right before me.

Final Comments:’Singulières’ becomes that necessary conversation starter, that touchstone, of what it means to be a woman in all its joys, fears, sorrows, laughter, tears, and angst.

Production runs to June 10 at Crow’s Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue. For tickets to the stage production, visit www.crowstheatre.com.

The production is then presented digitally June 11-26. For tickets visit www.crowstheatre.com.

As of the writing of this article, Covid protocols are in effect at the theatre.

The production is staged in French. Audiences have the choice to read the surtitles on a screen above the stage which is large enough to see from the house. There is also the choice to place over your eyes headgear that will allow you to read the English translation above the actors on stage. This headgear is Star Trek fashionable. I tried it. For the most part, it worked fine for me, but there were moments when I had to remove the headgear because it hurt the back of my ears.

In future for me two things: read the surtitles OR force myself to listen to the play since my undergraduate minor is French language.

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