The Quebec adaptation of Douglas Maxwell’s “Promises, Promises” is a bit like love at first sight. Between an author and an actress, between a director and a text, between the public and a character. The monologue first presented in Montreal has already earned Micheline Bernard a Critics Award in 2017. Now that the adventure continues for two weeks at La Bordée and on tour.
S e-described “girl gang” Micheline Bernard was never tempted to go solo theater. It took a Scottish playwright to persuade her to dive. It happened at La Licorne four years ago, when a cultural exchange gave her the opportunity to participate in a public reading of a text by Douglas Maxwell, A respectable widow learns vulgarity . Conquered by the performance of the actress, the author imagined it in another character of her own, Miss Maggie Brodie, in the heart of the monologue Promises, Promised , created in Glasgow in 2010. He entrusted her with the text … Et ç was the beginning of a great adventure for the one that marked the youth of a whole generation with its role of Jocelyne inHell Radio .
“It’s funny, he said to me:” It has nothing to do with the character of A Respectable Widow … , but I have the impression that you could do the monologue “. I do not know how he saw this, “observes the actress humbly before being interrupted by the director Denis Bernard, throwing what he sees as obvious:” In fact, he saw the actress. That’s all.”
Exorcism at school
Translated by Maryse Warda, Promises, Promises brings the viewer to a London primary school, where a recently retired teacher returns to the position of deputy. Strong in character and described as “indignant”, she will meet Rosie, a Somali girl “who makes selective mutism.” Having more in common than we perceive at first glance, the teacher and his student will forge links, while the authorities take surprising measures to get the child out of his silence.
“The director warns Miss Brodie that there is an exorcism that will be done in the classroom,” says Micheline Bernard. The monologue is very well written because the narrative frame goes beyond that at a given moment. The narrative frame is strong. This six-year-old girl comes to snatch Maggie, who will take her under his wing. She will want to take care of her, protect her. Which probably never happened to her. She gives herself this mandate, she makes him a promise that she will keep, even if it is very radical. ”
If the premise of the piece seems surreal, it is nevertheless inspired by a real fact, lived by a friend Douglas Maxwell’s teacher. It serves as a starting point for a thriller-like story, says Micheline Bernard, in which his ruthless freelance character will be revealed little by little.
“It allows us to get a portrait of a woman who is both from another era and our time,” adds Denis Bernard. She lives with a certain lag that is not just cultural. It comes with more suffering, scarification, wounds she has been dragging since her early childhood. She could have been silent herself, Miss Brodie. Here she meets this girl in her class. We are in the era of reasonable accommodation, we are in the era of secularism in schools. There is something very current in the speech. ”
At the end of the line (the umpteenth winter storm had forced them to cancel their trip to Quebec City), the two accomplices who are also cousins are relaunching and outbidding. Obviously, this Miss Brodie made them live a whole theatrical experience. The actress and the director are also looking forward to reconnecting with her for a third series of performances.
“It’s a magnificent character,” confirms Micheline Bernard. And a solo role that came with a lot of challenges, she adds.
“It’s very lonely and I’m not a loner,” she says. At the same time, I have in my hands a text that I am so happy to wear, to pass. I find that my job as an actress becomes a vocation when I do this text. I spend something that for me is extremely important. Otherwise, I would never have been able to do that. I would have said no to the idea of doing a monologue to make a monologue. ”
The actress says she jumped in the text Promises, promises with a certain naivety. “In the sense that I did not know I was going to take six months to memorize it,” she says. At the same time, it was a privilege to be with Denis. It had been a long time since we had worked together. And it was nice to have my director almost to myself! ”
He says he worked on the bond of intimacy that develops between the public and the character over this tete-a-tete. And he invites viewers to seize the opportunity to see a “magnificent” actress performance.
“There are performers who are able to climb Everest. It’s not easy, it’s not easy. And not all of the performers are dressed for that. It’s unfair, it’s cruel, but it’s a reality. Douglas Maxwell acknowledged a fact: we are in the presence of an actress who is able to climb Everest. We worked, that’s for sure. But we were equipped to get to that. There is no false modesty here. I worked the meeting between a character and the audience. But it’s also a meeting between the audience and an actress. Something is happening. I worked a lot on the direct and candid report. In this sense, the viewer comes out completely shaken … ”
The room Promises, Promises is presented in the Bordered March 26 to April 5, April 10 at the Theater Section of Saguenay and April 12 and 13 at Théâtre du Bic.