Historical fiction has often played out on our stages here at the NAC – Chasing Champions, Silence, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, to name just a few recent examples. Some have more truth in them than others. This play is singular because of the amount of accuracy in the work that we might wish wasn’t true. Two years ago, before I saw this powerful work in Montreal, I would have unwittingly defended Canada (or what was to become Canada) as a haven for escaped slaves, not a place where they endured the same terrors and powerlessness that they experienced south of the border.
With Angélique, Lorena Gale creates a deep and complex character, brought to life by the extraordinary Jenny Brizard. Remarkably, Angélique is not defined by slavery; this is her brutal reality and lived injustice, but not her identity. She is a fierce and witty woman, beautiful and clever, at once resigned and defiant as she needs to be.
I am thrilled to welcome back to the NAC English Theatre’s mainstage Black Theatre Workshop, with whom we last partnered on The Adventures on a Black Girl in Search of God, and delighted to welcome their co-producers, the always inventive Table D’Hôte Theatre, with their necessary and beautifully told story.
Lorena Gale’s proposal in re-imagining and embracing the legacy of Angélique is to place her and her story in a world where now is then, and then is now. Through the backdrop of 18th century Nouvelle-France, she asks us to recognize the cyclical and systemic nature of the oppression inflicted on those who are perceived as other – stripped of their power, discarded or silenced, and ultimately tortured for their otherness.
This is not a history lesson about slavery. We know that history, some of us intimately, others just from (a few) history books. What I find uniquely compelling in Gale’s investigation is her dissection of the humanity within those who were born into privilege and power set against the humanity of those who do not have that luxury. What is it about us that makes us think monstrous thoughts, or worse, act on them? And further, what is it about Quebec and Canada which feeds the denial of our sordid history of oppression? Gale is unapologetic, begging for discourse and empathy, while calling oneach of us to deeply consider the social and cultural realities that make this piece as urgent as it was twenty years ago.
I am reminded every day of the power of theatre and the arts during times of uncertainty, rage and questioning. We are lucky to have a community of brave artists who challenge, who provoke, who use their abilities to speak out. Thank you to the artists and production team, and to Jillian and the NAC for riding the wave of Lorena’s audacious piece, and being unabashedly creative, courageous and collaborative. And thank you, dear audience, for the wealth you bring to the theatre with your presence, and for sharing this offering with us.
Black Theatre Workshop
Artistic Director, Quincy Armorer
General Manager, Adele Benoit
Outreach and Marketing Coordinator, Kym Dominique-Ferguson
Artist Mentorship Program Coordinator, Warona Setshwaelo
School Tour Coordinator, Christine Rodriguez
Box Office Coordinator, Darren Schilling
Event Coordinator, Abena Bentley
Tableau D’Hôte Theatre
Co-founder, Artistic and Executive Producer, Mathieu Murphy-Perron
Associate Producers, Paul Brian Imperial, Michelle Rambharose, Liz Valdez
Resident Designers, Audrey-Anne Bouchard, Rob Denton, Lara Kaluza, Noémi Poulin
Graphic Design, Phil Malizia
Photography and Video, Jaclyn Turner
Co-Founder and Previous Artistic Director, Mike Payette
Produced by arrangement with Catalyst TCM, Toronto.
Angélique was first produced by Alberta Theatre Projects as part of the PAN-Canadian playRites ’98 Festival, January 1998.
Thank you from Black Theatre Workshop / Tableau D’Hôte Theatre: The tour of Angélique was made possible thanks to funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.