By Natalie Vilkoff (15 years old)
Throwing us back to the days when the world was full of wonder and when life was just a game, 26 lettres à danser directed by Hélène Langevin is an interactive play that is great for all ages.
As the four dancers (Ariane Boulet, Joannie Douville, Alexandre Parenteau et Georges-Nicolas Tremblay) sweep the stage we are reminded of the time when we were kids and everything had an unusual twist. A frogman dances around with finesse, a lightman illuminates the stage, the list is endless!
Consisting of only different sized rectangular chalkboards, the set appears very simple. At least, that’s what I thought. During the course of the play, I realized that things are not always what they seem. There were several compartments that unfolded to show the words hidden inside, and the whole backdrop would open to create a massive door through which the actors would enter. The backdrop didn’t quite reach the bottom, and that space was covered by a fabric through which the four actors would climb under. Between each different scene, I was really interested to see what would come next. Since every letter is different, they were all portrayed differently, and I never knew what to expect. When we are children we are fascinated by everything we see around us, even if what surrounds us seems simple or boring. Even if the overall concept of the play (the alphabet) is a pretty simple concept at first, I saw that each letter was different and I was really captivated by each scene and each letter.
There is almost no talking in the play except at the beginning when the actors ask for members of the audience’s names in order to get all the letters of the alphabet to write on the chalkboards that the backdrop consisted of. I think that the fact that there was no talking made the play accessible to everyone. So even though the actors and director that made this play are francophone, people who do not speak or understand French could still watch and enjoy this play without missing anything. Instead of talking, the actors used movement to portray images and convey emotions.
Although the name of the play suggests that each letter in the alphabet will be danced, the alphabet is constantly present, and there is almost never one isolated letter. There is also no storyline behind each dance, but I’m sure that viewers still connect all the parts and create their own story anyways. Also, other than a slightly eclectic feeling, there was not really a consistent theme throughout the performance. It was as if every letter has its own personality and backstory. As each letter is different, each “story” was different. Sometimes, letters that are together in the alphabet were shown in a similar way, although the “personality” of each letter was present. “I” was timid, “H” was loud….. One of my favourite scenes was when two actors came out with this long glow stick and formed the letters “L”, “M”, “N”, “O” and “P” with it. Although the letters were shown using a similar technique, it was still somehow very interesting and there was something about it that made it seem that no matter how long I looked, it would never get old or boring.
I noticed that the letter “Q” wasn’t mentioned, and it made me think of little things that annoy (or annoyed) us when we were kids. When little things seemed like the end of the world and tiny details really really matter. Intentional or not, this mistake added to the play and to its message: to view the world as a child.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who is or ever was a child. With a whimsical flair, this play is nothing short of creativity, captivation and imagination.
26 lettres à danser
A Bouge de là production
Conceived, Directed, and Co-Choreographed by Hélène Langevin
February 11-12, 2017
Instructor’s Note from Ekaterina Vetrova of Once Upon a Kingdom Theatre Company: “Instead of giving the class lots of theory this time around, I gave them an hour class right before the show which consisted of practical exercises or associations and included verbal, physical movement, rhythm, and acting exercises. The point was to make the students’ imaginations work so that they could start to recognize images and, in response, come up with new associations, images, thoughts, memories, and fantasies provoked by certain words and/or movements in the show. The result was a very engaging and energetic class where all the students participated super actively. Then we watched the show, had a discussion afterwards, and then the students went home and were instructed to write a ‘creative review’ that had to reflect in some way the associations and images that came to their heads while watching the performance. I am very happy with the result and for many of them it is currently their best written critical work so far!”
See more work from the students of O.U.K. Theatre here.