[Critique] “We could already smell dynamite in the Stone Age”: the fall of Quebec

We already smelled dynamite in the Stone Age opens the room of Premier Acte with a seemingly crazy proposal: what if the advent of an independent Quebec led to war? This whimsical politics-fiction has something to feed curiosity, but also apprehension… and this persistent question until the curtain goes up: oh yes, really?

Written and directed by newcomers Charlie Cameron-Verge and Natalie Fontalvo (the latter also acting), the play portrays a near future where a third referendum on Quebec sovereignty, won 57% by the Yes, will take place. sees contested by a Canadian capital using all the pretexts to block, tipping the popular decision in armed conflict: the war of independence of Quebec.

From the outset, however, it should be noted that the proposal works surprisingly well, thanks among other things to a well-crafted political framework. A schematic exhibition, completed in a minute and a half, allows you to quickly dive into the heart of busy scenes where a soundtrack – tapped cauldrons, in particular – ensures a constant tension which, annoying, nevertheless ends up imposing itself as a binder of the show. , a reminder of the violence of the fighting.

The members of the troop, called upon to play various roles, will feed an initial confusion, that until the lines become clearer. Mylène, a Nordic exile caught up in the conflict, will join Simone, a separatist rebel leading the insurrectionary assembly. Benoit, a father enlisted late in the resistance, will bring a felt distress – this disorganization of the father is nicely shown by clinical neon lighting. Jeanne, regimental captain, will play vibrant notes – a confusion riddled with doubts, the embarrassment of a pawn in a game with strings that escape her.

Beyond these four main lines, the story uses many ways to build itself: radio excerpts present the major opposition movements between Quebec rebels and the Canadian government, while poetic insertions create a parenthesis on the sidelines of the action. quiet for privacy. White lines, sketching in the background the districts where the war strikes, make it possible to exploit a whole section left aside by the story itself.

The strong thread

The play, which in short offers vast scenic writing and a solid text, which does not exclude hints of humour, will ultimately leave one question in the air: what story is this convincing story trying to tell?

Some elements are very salient, starting with the ability of the show to make the territory exist. The Côte-Nord and this river that « ignores the war » rub shoulders with Donnacona, Bagotville and Sherbrooke. Jonquière is at the heart of a pivotal struggle, Trois-Rivières falls and Montmagny becomes the scene of a forced retreat — all these toponyms, juxtaposed, end up composing an astonishing and beautiful cartography.

The anchors in a Quebec experience are for their part evocative, visible for example in this tension between the fight to be led and the possibility of withdrawal: « all war is useless », will repeat this mantra with a hard skin, immediately discouraging any posture fight. Against this well-known topo of persistent docility, the play manages to place in the social space the imaginary but credible space of a common struggle.

However, these successes will struggle to converge completely into another unity, like the point through which one enters and exits a painting. And this, even if the show is crossed by the horrors of war and the weight of ideals, the end perhaps directing us in the direction of the dream to be maintained. Surprising construction and delivered with energy, which quickly manages to distance itself from the pure political manifesto, the piece maintains a vagueness on its aim, which leaves, in the end, several experiences side by side without a clear focus, a vanishing point for fully bring together the different lines.

We already smelled dynamite in the Stone Age

Text and direction: Charlie Cameron-Verge and Natalie Fontalvo. With Mariann Bouchard, Maude Lafond, Samuel Bouchard, Noémie F. Savoie, Laurent Fecteau-Nadeau, Natalie Fontalvo and Scott Riverin. A production by Collectif Verdun, at Premier Acte until October 8.

To see in video

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