— Production photo
FOR THE PLEASURE OF SEEING HER AGAIN
Michel Tremblay’s For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again offers just what the title promises. The play is a pleasure, the staging is a joy, and there’s a special payoff for those of us who saw the original production with Nicola Cavendish at the Stanley over a decade ago in seeing it again.
The “her” in the title is Nana, a deliciously loving, wonderfully funny tribute to Tremblay’s late mother, portrayed here in a tour de force performance by Margo Kane. Kevin Loring plays the Tremblay character as an adult, remembering his mother in the 1950s and his imaginative younger self, ages ten to twenty, in the flashbacks that make up the heart of the play. It’s a portrait of the artist as a young man, and of his mother as muse and inspiration.
These same actors performed the play last year in its hit production at Full Circle: First Nations Performance’s Talking Stick Festival, and their delightful chemistry shows it. Recreating Glynis Leyshon’s original unfussy direction, Kane makes the intermission-free 90 minutes fly by.
Loring plays straight man to Kane as the Tremblay character (simply called Narrator in the script) sits in a chair while his Nana irons, folds laundry, makes tea, mops the floor and buzzes around the stage, fussing over him, telling tall tales about her husband’s family, arguing with him about novels, and wondering whether the TV actress she thinks about so often ever thinks about her on the other side of the screen.
Knowing that young Michel would go on to write a series of brilliant plays and novels filled with Québécoise characters like his mother, we come to understand how her encouragement and her own imaginative storytelling helped him model his future career.
Kane’s comic energy never lapses in Nana’s melodramatic exasperation at her ten-year-old’s mischief and his thirteen-year-old literalism (wondering where the heroine of Nana’s favourite romance, locked in a dungeon for six months, seems to poo); at her boorish brother-in-law’s infatuation with his favourite French actor and her niece’s ridiculous balletic debut. Loring subtly transitions from one age to the next and quietly complements Nana’s noisy self-dramatizations.
The ending is powerful and surprising, first taking a serious turn in previewing Nana’s death, then offering us a wondrous coup de théâtre finale that showcases Pam Johnson’s set design. The surprise ending picks up on a reference earlier in the play to Nana’s Saskatchewan upbringing and the fact that her mother’s family was Cree. That both Kane and Loring are First Nations actors adds an additional dimension to this already rich and charming play and production.
Gateway Artistic Director Jovanni Sy’s eloquent program note about the need for diversity on our stages is also a must-read.