[Grand angle de Marie Labrecque] : The growth of a small format

Started in 2016 at the instigation of the former artistic director of La Licorne, Denis Bernard, the formula of the theatrical 5 to 7 has taken off and has grown. This concept, inspired by a Scottish idea – « A Play, a Pie and a Pint » — generates a corpus of Quebec texts.

Originally, the two artistic directors of the company LAB87, which then organized the 5 to 7 of La Licorne, aimed to develop a Quebec repertoire of one-act plays, lasting 50 or 60 minutes. A niche then non-existent here. Since then, the authors have turned to this type of writing, notes David Laurin, who now runs, with his sidekick Jean-Simon Traversy, the Jean Duceppe Company, where they transported the formula.

“We are doing more and more creations in the 5 to 7 mode. We receive so many projects, it’s quite amazing. We launch a call each season for emerging companies and, once again this year, we received around thirty proposals. And these are solid projects, the fun, which embrace the specificity of 5 to 7. We want it not to be too heavy, for the experience to be user-friendly. And I have the impression that, in recent years, the authors have understood what we were looking for. »

Humor a basic ingredient

The range of texts received is “very wide”, but, adds David Laurin, the dramatic plays are less suited to the context, like certain more “ethereal” approaches, with nevertheless interesting potential. “We are still establishing the basis of our 5 to 7, so we are solidifying what we have: we are very into dramatic comedy, with current issues. Thereafter, we will be open to other proposals. »

For Philippe Lambert, humor is indeed a basic ingredient in these pieces. “There is a side feel good, relaxed, completely assumed, which is important in the formula, “believes the director of La Licorne, which presents two shows in 5 to 7 per year, about half of which are written by Quebecers. He sees flexibility in this niche of short plays. “I think the longer it goes, the more the authors will see the possibilities. The formula is a test bed, too, to test the limits or the ways of playing with this form. »


The monologue that was just performed in the rehearsal room, One thing is certain, the sun always ends up going downthus borders on the border of stand up. The author and performer Francis-William Rhéaume had written a first version for a similar format: the 5 to 7 of the Festival du Never read. A “very personal” text, addressing different types of mourning, which stood “on the fine line between drama and comedy”.

Rhéaume took advantage in his play of the less formal and reverent framework of the 5 to 7 as well as the intimacy with the public that the formula generates. This relaxed context gave him permission to take himself “a little less seriously,” he says. “I play with this relationship to the public that eats me in the face. The address is quite straightforward. I love that relationship. It feels like we’re talking to each other for real. »

And anyone who envies comedians their ability to run their performance in bars considers it a great opportunity to work the show so closely with the public, to learn things by seeing the spectators react to his text.

This intimate setting is clearly a niche conducive to personal solos: in Quebec, the Théâtre La Bordée, which has also adopted the 5 to 7 formula, presents from November 28 Loving each other well packaged. A text that first germinated on the blog that Cristina Moscini started writing when she stopped drinking at the start of the pandemic. “Michel Nadeau, the artistic director of La Bordée, found that there was a voice very close to the monologue, and he asked me to compose a longer text, explains the author. I think it called for theater in my pictorial writing, sometimes poetic, sometimes rawer. »

Performed by Ariel Charest, this solo alternates seriousness and humor, ranging from episodes of past drinking to “opening up to the future, the vision of this new life of sobriety”. Cristina Moscini was able to see the “very lively” reactions aroused by her play during a version given in audio playback in 2021: laughter and tears.

The 5 to 7 thus often serves as a test bed for novice playwrights. At Duceppe, the niche is seen as a springboard for the next generation “at all levels: authors, actors, directors, designers too,” says David Laurin. For us, it’s a great way to reach out to a young company, to young artists. »

New audience

The 5 to 7 formula also serves to attract new audiences. In addition to the texts, their shortened duration, the offer of a snack and a beer, the early hour, the unique location and the unusual proximity to the performers, not forgetting of course the modest price, everything contributes to making an affordable experience. And appealing to those who are fearful of this art form.

“It’s like another way of meeting the theatre, it opened up an audience,” notes Philippe Lambert. This shows that theater “can be accessible, relaxed, simple. It is a doorway to undo the prejudices that [certains] have « .

« I think it removes some of the risk for the spectator less accustomed to the theater », advances David Laurin. At Duceppe, this is « the primary goal » of the 5 to 7: to seek out a new audience, to attract people « less inclined to go out to the theatre » in the hope of « converting » them.

“You don’t make a penny with the 5 to 7 — you could even say that you lose money. But we see that we develop an audience there, it’s like a kind of promotion. Once the spectator has set foot in our theatre, it’s really easier to invite them back afterwards. »

And it works, he says: 40% of viewers who attended the recent play The Nicolas Rioux case “came to Duceppe for the first time”. A proportion which varies from one production to another, but which is “generally between 40% and 50%”.

The company resumes The wolf from October 26 to 30, but its actors, Maude Guérin and Luc Senay, go from the backstage of the Duceppe theater, where it was created in March 2020, to the main hall. This version adapted and augmented by Nathalie Doummar will then begin a major tour in Quebec and New Brunswick, until March 2023.

« One of our dreams at Duceppe, says David Laurin, is to discover in one of our happy hours the beginning of a [plus longue] work and to make transit a piece of 50 minutes towards the large plate by making a work of one hour and a half or two hours of it. We also see it as laboratories. »

Good news, the happy hour concept itself is spreading: the Théâtre Bistouri, which now produces in this niche for La Licorne, is in the process of organizing tours. The company relies on the accessibility of these shows and on the “reinvention of the theatrical framework” offered by the formula. « We are democratizing the theater », says its director, Marc-André Thibault.

This is fondant, the first play by Pascale Marineau, created last May, which tested the interest of spectators in the provinces, with around twenty dates “everywhere in Quebec”. “And we have a great response. It is very encouraging for the future. Several broadcasters would also see it as an opportunity to develop audiences, to “rejuvenate” them.

A long-term business

For Marc-André Thibault, this is a long-term undertaking. “I think that if there is some recurrence [des 5 à 7], once or twice a year, spectators will be interested in this offer. And we’re sure they’ll be interested in the rest [de la programmation] once they’ve had the theater bug. »

On tour, the intimate formula finds its place in all venue formats, he says. “As much in rooms that are not used to receiving theater because they are so small, as in rooms with 1,000 seats. In this context, the broadcasters bring the public to the stage. This allows viewers to live an experience that is unique to them. [inédite], to access a unique moment of theatre. »

To see in video

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