April 2005

The Seven Days of Simon Labrosse
by Carol Frechette (translated by John Murrell)
Directed by Michael Shamata
Starring Paul Fauteux, Mike Hughes and Manon St. Jules.
April 8 – May 1, 2005 Artword Theatre Toronto

“If you like realistic theatre, watch television!” Thus spake my playwright friend Jack W. Hey, Jack, you’d like this play: ingenious book (well translated), excellent acting, intriguing direction, and, well, it’s theatre all the way.

The set is minimal. Take a seat and look at the floor. No stage, just a stripe of whitish tile diagonally across a room-corner, wide enough to accommodate a white tube-frame bed. At one end of the tile stripe, a framed white door. A couple of chairs and a couple of potted trees.

While the audience is getting seated and talking, a few people in street clothes come into the space, look around, talk, act like they may be part of the management, but if you’ve been looking at the posters, you recognize Mike Hughes and Manon St. Jules. Even so, it’s not till you pick out their voices above the general din, arguing just off stage, and you catch ‘Simon’ saying “They’ve come to see my life, not yours,” that they become characters, you become part of the audience, and a relationship in a theatre begins.

Simon presents the situation by addressing the audience. He is: unemployed; three months behind in his rent; missing his girlfriend Nathalie who’s gone to Africa; concerned about his friend Léo who needs a brain operation to allow him to say anything positive. He hopes this play about seven days of his life will bring in the money he needs to solve his problems (“Tell your friends”).

Michael Hughes

His friends Léo and Nathalie will play all the male and female parts, in return for 5 minutes each of stage time to present their own lives. During each of the days Simon demonstrates seven desperately hopeful ideas he has for making money. We witness him coming on to strangers selling himself as an ‘Emotional Stuntman’ (“I’ll handle abuse from your parents”); ‘Audience’ (“I’ll watch your every move, and give your life meaning”); ‘Finisher of Sentences’ (This one is hilarious).

All Simon’s plans fail, but he never loses hope, never loses his really charming smile and eager manner. Léo, when he is not playing his parts, is writing poems on pages that he balls up, tosses and destroys, raging that life is shit. Paul Fauteux’s anger is convincing enough that you don’t want him to look right at you and make you a target. Manon St. Jules, so flexible and at home in an array of female parts in Simon’s life, works determinedly at getting Simon to stop his life and allow her five minutes to talk about her ‘insides’ (“My pancreas is inhabited… There’s a mouth in my belly.”) Very funny.

“If I can tell you about my life, you won’t feel so bad about yours,” says Simon. That premise works for me. I was smiling when the play started, and I was smiling when it ended, and there was never a let down in creativity in between. If the play has a fault, it’s the audience. Too few of us. Tell your friends.

We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Report by Stanley Fefferman
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for The Live Music Report

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