Culture & Conversation

Political Theatre That Engages

There is something counterintuitive about a play named Sexy béton. What is duller that concrete? Yet the cast of this work have managed with great compassion and infinite professionalism to present a work that is thoughtful and moving.

There is dramatic tension in the actual dialogue that came from tapes with the politician in charge of the inquiry into the collapse of the Concorde Bridge in Laval. It was not his “mandate” to name names or to place blame. The head of the engineers union was equally as obtuse. Best of all was the secretive hushed delivery of an anonymous person who knew the guys who knew some other guys who were the contractors of the bridge; who were incidentally related to politicians.

I have joked often that Montreal is a lot like Mexico City with slightly less pollution and a lot less sun. We seem to have become indifferent to the corruption all around us. What is astonishing about this play is that it is neither indifferent nor cynical. When the victims start to speak in their own broken enraged voices, the play takes flight, and everyone in the theatre is horrified that the collapse of a bridge could be classified by the SAAQ (our own no fault government run and bureaucrat riddled car insurance agency) as a “car accident”. That kind of cynicism only happens when the whole system stinks.

This is my favourite Porte Parole work, partly because Annabelle Soutar is finally getting into her stride as a playwright and it had perfect pacing which I attribute to Carole Frechette’s impeccable theatrical timing as the dramaturge.

Brett Watson took dialogue which would have been dull and repetitive in lesser hands and delivered an interesting and engaging performance. Maude Laurendeau-Mondoux was a joy to watch and her performance as one of the victims was stunning. Marie-José Gauthier was fascinating as the former construction expert, and really magical as the wife of the immigrant victim. She managed to convey the anxiety and overbearing nature of the persona while making her endearing and ultimately tragic.

Stéphane Blanchette performed with subtlety the part of one of the victims which could easily have gone maudlin, and he maintained a terrific rhythm as a politician of many words with not much to say. Paul Stewart performed his Middle Eastern persona with so fine a delivery that one forgot his blond Celtic presence and believed.

With such a cast, a writer in full flood, a dramaturge who sings in the timing, one might overlook André Perrier’s contribution, but the work of the director is in the details and Perrier’s is very fine.

Montreal has been blessed with political theatre this season, but Sexy béton is by far the most engaging. We are fortunate to have a documentary theatre company like Porte Parole as part of our community and I am looking forward to parts two and three of this fascinating and very theatrical series.

Tonight is the last chance to catch Sexy béton Part 1. Go to the Segal Centre site for showtimes. Tickets: $22 Regular, $19 Student\Senior (514) 739-7944.

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