On the traces of the Plouffe

Sur les traces des Plouffe

Ovid (Renaud Lacelle-Bourdon) comforted by Mama Plouffe (Marie-Ginette Guay), under the gaze of Papa Plouffe (Gilles Renaud), and Napoleon (Jean-Michel Girouard).

January 11, 2020 4: 00


On the traces of the Plouffe

Sur les traces des Plouffe

Normand Provencher

The Sun


To hear Maryse Lapierre and Isabelle Hubert talk about Plouffe, it looks like they almost have a kinship with the famous family. They know everything, or almost, of the characters of Roger Lemelin, such as described in the novel of origin, published in 1948. Because it is mainly this founding text, but also a bit of the film by Gilles Carle, whose the director and the responsible of the adaptation were inspired to create the piece.

Novel originally, then radio novel, prior to its passage to the small and the big screen, The Plouffe family, an emblematic work of the collective heritage of quebec, had never been mounted on the boards. At the request of the Trident, Maryse Lapierre and Isabelle Hubert have been chosen for this important work, which, one suspects, comes with its share of stress and anxiety. The Sun has met the two artists whose life revolves for months around the lives of the members of the mythical working class family in the lower town of Quebec.

“In the early 50’s, there were three books in the houses in quebec : the small catechism, the Bible and The Plouffe family, “says Isabelle Hubert, who had already adapted for the stage Agaguk and Moby Dick.

At his side, Maryse Lapierre, sharing the same excitement at the idea of reviving on the boards Theophilus and Josephine Plouffe, and their children, Ovid, Napoleon, William and Cecile. The development of the decoration, the touches to the texts, rehearsals with 14 actors, the back-and-forth behind the scenes, all combine to make the adventure a unique experience for a graduate of the Conservatory of Quebec. “In my dreams of a teenager, this is how I imagined the theater.”

When the proposal to adapt The Plouffe was offered to him by Anne-Marie Olivier, the artistic director of the Trident, Maryse Lapierre was dizzy. “This is by far the biggest challenge of my life.” As soon as she felt the need to appeal to Isabelle Hubert for the job adaptation of the novel of Roger Lemelin.

“Me, with my love for Plouffe, I’m arriving a little as the guardian of the work. In the end, we get a nice mix…” slips of the latter, each year, makes it a pleasure to watch the film of the same name with her boyfriend and “a little glass of wine”.

“The order of the Trident was clear, she continued. It was an adaptation of the novel, and not a replay. There is a certain amount of respect for the essence of the work to maintain it. We don’t want to reinvent The Plouffe and put them in a spaceship. The challenge was to speak to today’s audience of a novel is a work of nostalgia. He needed to find a way to talk about it so much to those who remember to those who do not know it.”

The funny part of the coincidence wanted that the stage director, newly mom, lives at the foot of the gentle slope, near the residence of Roger Lemelin, where the novelist has imagined the daily lives of the Plouffe family. “It’s special to work on a story that takes place where you live. I feel like a form of empathy with the characters.”

And, to add to the coincidences, she has dubbed… Theophilus his boy a year and a half. It does not invent.


Sur les traces des Plouffe

Isabelle Hubert and Maryse Lapierre, the duo behind the adaptation of Plouffe on the boards.

Library Sun, Patrice Laroche


Sentence worship

The older audience, who has known the era where the dissemination of Plouffe gathered all the villagers in the only home with a television, should not expect to find the same characters.

“The soap opera of the 50s, has never told the story of the novel. It were the characters in the Plouffe placed in funny situations, ” says Isabelle Hubert. We left majority of the novel, which has given us much more freedom.”

The piece, however, will allow a few nods to the film by Gilles Carle, made in 1981, in which the anthological phrase heart-wrenching Gabriel Arcand, “There is no place, nowhere, for the’ovide Plouffe of the world”.

“How to mount The Plouffe without this replica? request Isabelle Hubert. Everyone is talking about it. We negotiated the rights to the film just for her.”

A kitchen in the heart

Throughout the rehearsals with his actors, Maryse Lapierre has kept the novel at hand. More than once, assailed by doubt, she has returned to rectify the situation. “It is extremely well written. The dialogues, the direction of the actors, the set design. it’s all there. The characters are not caricatures, but human beings are complex. There are many layers in the novel. This is the story of a family, a neighbourhood, a city, a province…”

To illustrate on the stage the places of Quebec frequented by Plouffe, not to mention events such as the parade of the queen of England or the procession of the Fete-Dieu, the director has made extra time in his imagination. “How do you illustrate the rise of a staircase that leads to the upper town? To give the impression of a crowd with 14 actors?”

“When I and my designer have found the stage area, after two months, it was simple, so disarming that we said that people are going to think that we found it in two minutes and a half, but it was complicated.

“In the end, finishes it, I want people to come out with a kitchen in the heart. It is the only place realistic that never goes away. It is in the theatricality and the suggestion. Follow me, gang, because I will not give you all cooked in the beak…”

The room the Plouffe is presented to the Trident, from 14 January to 8 February.

The distribution is composed of Gilles Renaud (Theophilus), Marie-Ginette Guay (Josephine), Renaud Lacelle-Bourdon (Ovid), Jean-Michel Girouard (Napoleon), Alex Godbout (Guillaume), Frédérique Bradet (Cecile), Alice Moreault (Rita Toulouse), Jacques Girard (the parish priest Folbèche), Maxime Beauregard-Martin (Denis Boucher), Robin-Joël Cool (Tom Brown), Mary-Lee Picknell (Jeanne Duplessis), Sarah Villeneuve-Desjardins (Bernice), Alexis Déziel (Stan Labrie and pianist) and Nicola-Frank Vachon (Onesimus)




The radio novel

“For the first time presented on radio-Canada on October 20, 1952, the radio novel holds the antenna up in 1955.

“Paul Guèvremont (Theophilus), Amanda Alarie (Josephine), Émile Genest (Napoleon), Jean-Pierre
Masson (Ovid), JeanDuceppe (Guillaime) and Denise Pelletier (Cecile) lend their voices to the characters.

The soap opera

“Presented live each Wednesday night at 20h30, the adaptation to television of the novel of Roger Lemelin, the first of its kind in Canada, is experiencing rapidly accomplish major as soon as its aired on Radio-Canada, November 4, 1953.

“In the credits : Paul Guèvremont (Theophilus), Amanda Alarie (Josephine), Jean-Louis Roux (Ovid), Émile Genest (Napoleon), Pierre Valcour (William), Denise Pelletier (Cecile), Janine Mignolet and Lise Roy (Rita Toulouse), Jean Duceppe (Stan Labrie) and Rolland Bedard (Onésime Ménard).

“The series will run for six seasons and 194 episodes of a half-hour. The last broadcast is presented on June 17, 1959.

“The English version, The Plouffe Family, is broadcast to the English network of Radio-Canada, effective October 14, 1954. The distribution and the plots remain the same.

The film

“Shot entirely in Quebec by Gilles Carle in 1981, with a budget of$ 5 Million, a colossal sum for the time. In the end, the movie has a revenue of$2 Million.

“The film was released in 40 theatres, never seen before for a feature film from quebec, after a first opening of the Fortnight, at the Cannes film Festival.

“In the end credits : Émile Genest (Theophilus), Juliette Huot (Josephine), Gabriel Arcand (Ovid), Pierre Curzi (Napoleon), Serge Dupire (William), Denise Filiatrault (Cecile), Anne Létourneau (Rita Toulouse, france), Donald Pilon (Stan Labrie) and Paul Berval (Onésime Ménard).

“The theme song of the movie, It was a time of happy people, was composed by Stéphane Venne and performed by Nicole Martin.

“The sequence of the imposing torchlight procession of the Fete-Dieu, tour in Old Quebec, was in need of some 2000 extras, who have gone down the side of the Mountain to get to the church of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. Normand Provencher



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