Roland (la vérité du vainqueur)
Olivier Ducas
Studio, November 12 & 13 at 8 p.m.
Medieval epic adapted and directed by Olivier Ducas, based on an epic poem and an 11th century chanson de geste, with Daniel Desparois and Étienne Blanchette.

Artistic collaboration: Claudia Couture, Benoît Durand-Jodoin, Thomas Godefroid, Déline Pétrone and Julie Vallée-Léger.
Produced by Théâtre de la Pire Espèce. Recommended for ages 12 and older.
Running time: 55 minutes, with no intermission.
Student matinees available.
Presented in French.

Who was this fellow Roland, the legendary hero of the medieval chanson de geste? Was he really a valiant knight and a nephew of Charlemagne, or was he merely a pawn in a game of propaganda intended to give some historical credibility to the Crusades? This intriguing question was the starting point for the creative team at Théâtre de la Pire Espèce, and the result is a play that forges a direct and engaging relationship with the audience.

The play opens with a storyteller describing his childhood hero, Roland. A true knight. Not the kind who slays dragons and rescues princesses—no, Roland is a working knight: he goes to war. Make no mistake, Roland is no mythical invention but a flesh-and-blood hero, a historical figure! Backed by his friend, who plays the secondary characters, our storyteller presents the highlights of La Chanson de Roland and proclaims them to be absolutely and utterly true. They must be true, because the whole saga is written down in black and white, right here in his book.

In this play, Roland and the twelve most valiant knights in France are diminutive paper shadow puppets manipulated (in full view) by the two actors. But suddenly the line between fact and fiction disappears... As he gets more involved in his tale, our storyteller gradually takes on the role of his hero: he becomes Roland, and gives him physical form. At that point he vanishes into the story: joining the other figures behind the screen, a shadow among shadows, he relinquishes all critical distance. In a word, he’s been caught at his own game, he’s fallen into the trap. Luckily, his friend stays objective through it all. The dynamic between the two takes on a different tone, and we witness an actual duel in which each protagonist vigorously defends his interpretation of La Chanson de Roland and attempts to convince the audience that his version is the right one.

Shadow play, or the Grand Illusion
According to the Théâtre de la Pire Espèce creative team, it’s no accident that this play uses projections and shadow play. “First of all, shadows have a mysterious, immaterial quality that corresponds to the fantastic and legendary elements of the epic. They can expand the performance space and transform a paper dwarf into a sinister giant! In other words, they are the physical expression of the storyteller’s hyperbole. Second, the inherent qualities of shadows echo the theme of the play, namely, the way a single event can be interpreted many different ways. Essentially, a shadow is only an image, a partial (albeit gigantic) representation of reality. The greatest challenge in creating this show was blending two diametrically opposed theatrical languages: storytelling, which is all words, and shadow play, which is all images and no words.”

Founded in 1999 and co-directed by Olivier Ducas, the Théâtre de la Pire Espèce has created a dozen original shows that have been performed more than 800 times in 7 countries and 4 languages. Their productions—a light-hearted blend of theatre of objects, clowning, cabaret and street theatre—explore the stage vocabulary to develop a living, innovative and accessible art form.

“An irresistible re-telling of the amazing story of Roland, using objects, of course—cutout paper silhouettes, a laundry line, a tin bucket, great-looking helmets, ribbons of moving images—but also grotesquely appealing projections and shadow play.”
– Le Devoir, May 2008

“The journey is irresistibly compelling and funny. The music is satisfyingly heroic. A captivating re-reading of the work.”
– Voir Montréal, May 2008

“Over the last few years the founders of Théâtre de la Pire Espèce have laid the foundations of a genuine creative method. Working simultaneously on all elements of a show, never allowing the text to dominate, they combine artistic disciplines and seemingly incongruous elements with an unerring sense of balance.”
– Esse magazine, No. 54 (2005)

The audience is invited to stay in the Studio after the Friday performance for a post-show talkback with the company, hosted by Marie Claude Dicaire.



53 Elgin Street, Ottawa
10 a.m.–9 pm.
Adults $18.79
Students $18.79

Save 15% to 20 % off regular ticket prices
613-947-7000, ext. 384

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Communications Officer - Théâtre Français
National Arts Centre
613-947-7000, ext. 396 / 1-866-850-2787, ext. 396



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