top of page


Presented by Théâtre Français de Toronto (TFT) and Crow’s Theatre at the Fleck Theatre, Harbourfront Centre

Credit: Christophe Pean

Joe Szekeres

A unique hybrid production of opera, theatre and concert that brought varied responses from audience members regarding the timely theme of immigration to Western countries.

Théâtre Français de Toronto (TFT) and Crow’s Theatre co-present a unique live production that brought a variety of responses on this opening night from audience members right at the curtain call and upon exiting Harbourfront’s Simon Fleck Theatre.

‘L’Amour telle une cathédrale ensevelie’ (Love Like a Buried Cathedral), according to author and director Guy Régis Jr’s programme note, details two story items. We are first introduced to a mother (Nathalie Vairac) and father (Frederic Fachena) who exchange extremely harsh words and accusations against each other. It’s not apparent immediately why they are arguing. But when it does become evident (spoiler: and it’s the worst nightmare of every parent), it’s clear why there is so much shouting, anger, and fear.

The ‘Intrepid 33-year-old son’ has tried to cross the sea from Haiti to come to Québec to be with his mother and father. We learn that the parents are immigrants to Canada (the second story item). At their immigration, the parents were unable to bring their son. However, everything had been taken care of to prepare for his arrival.

However, this story is only one example of the tragedies surrounding the many departures from countries that are losing their sons and daughters.

Guy Régis Jr. clarifies that immigration to countries to begin a new life of freedom does not automatically guarantee that will happen. Some who travel to Western countries (Canada included) never make it safely.

Quite the challenge to stage, indeed.

Visually, the production is quite striking at the preshow. Set Designer Velica Panduru, Lighting Designer Marine Levey and Video of Dimitri Petrovic create a mysterious and unsettling atmosphere. Amos Coulanges sits on stage right in shadow and beautifully underscores classical instrumental guitar music that is lovely to hear. There is a see-through scrim at the back upon which the varied undulation of waves can be seen. It looks treacherous to be on those waters, which becomes a potent reminder of those on the ships coming to the new countries. Upon the second level, I could see at least one chair through the scrim. There will be some story action taking place here when the show begins.

The story is performed in French and Creole with English surtitles. It has been a long time since my undergraduate years studying French, but I persevere because I’m doing my best to return to working language knowledge. I’m thankful the surtitles are there for the most part. When they weren’t there, I was utterly lost.

That posed a problem for me and, I’m sure, for many in the audience who did not know French.

This occurred during the ‘Les Voix du Coeur’ choir singing beautiful harmonies. I recognized a few words, but I could not understand everything. Because of that, I felt I’d missed much of what Guy Régis Jr. wanted me to know about the stories of the migrants to new worlds. Was there a technical glitch because the subtitles reappeared after the choir left the stage?

This opening night production affected many people at the end when Nathalie Vairac, as the mother, stepped forward and voiced her anger, sorrow, and frustration at what had occurred. I could hear quiet sobs behind me. Obviously, the story had an extraordinary effect on these individuals. Perhaps these people might have had a personal connection to others in their lives who are migrants. I have not, but I saw a story that made me want to feel for those with connections.

Losing a child at any age is unthinkable for any parent, and that most certainly comes across in the poetic words of Régis’ text.

And herein lies the other staging issue regarding Régis’ direction that didn’t make me connect to these characters. I could hear snippets from audience members on my way out.

There is little to no tonal quality of the peaks and valleys involved in the parents' arguments at the beginning and the mother’s soliloquy at the end. It’s a great deal of shouting all the time. Again, I get it that arguments and tragedy make people respond on varied emotional levels.

But this is theatre we are watching. We want to ensure that we are connecting to our audiences. We don’t want to stop listening to the characters.

The shouting didn’t connect me to their plight and what had happened in their lives.

I so desperately wanted to do just that.

But I couldn’t.

Perhaps the creative team might take a look at these areas once again.

Running time: approximately one hour and 30 minutes with no interval.

The production plays on February 24 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, February 25 at 1:30 pm at the Fleck Theatre, Harbourfront Centre.

Abstract Building
Black on Transparent_edited.png
bottom of page