As I have only recently arrived in Montreal, it dawned on me while traveling to The Plant, a community space in the Mile End, that once again I was venturing into the unknown. I did not know what to expect. I personally had never been to this vicinity nor witnessed a one-act play in a small audience. It was quite refreshing, really, to attend theatre outside the constraints of McGill. It seems as if my adventures with The Daily are constantly providing opportunities to become exposed to cultural life in Montreal. It is far too easy to become wrapped up in the social and geographic bubble of McGill, something that I am constantly struggling with, as I am sure many others are.
With DIY props and improvised seating arrangements, I was struck by the intimate setting of the space. It was the most relaxed setting for a theatre production that I have ever attended. Chairs of all shapes and sizes surrounded the acting area. The informality of it was charming.
This alternative form of student theatre presented itself in two different plays: The Yellow Wallpaper and A Toast to Alex Henry. An adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s feminist short story, The Yellow Wallpaper was exhilarating, fascinating, and terrifying.
Following the scattered brain and behaviour pattern of a mentally ill person is not an easy task. This, however, is exactly what I had to do. Trapped inside a room covered in yellow wallpaper until her condition improves, actress Alexandra Montagnese did a great job of portraying a woman of immense mental complexity. Without anything else to preoccupy her, she becomes increasingly obsessed with the pattern and colour of the wallpaper that surrounds her. Convinced that there are women creeping behind the wallpaper, she eventually thinks she has become one herself.
With various figures dancing around large pieces of cloth draped across the walls, the lights behind them warping their size, slowly growing larger and larger, it was easy to feel the onset of panic that the main character was experiencing. Caught up in her frantic scrambling of words, forward and backward pacing, and general air of anxiety, I know that I myself was fully caught up in the lunacy. I am sure that others in the audience were too, for it was hard not to be involved.
After the show’s short duration, and a loud round of applause, there was a small intermission followed by the next one-act play. I think that directors Gavin Thomson and Danji Buck-Moore did a fantastic job of creating the story of an angry bearded man. Owning up to its comedic description, this play did not disappoint. Fortunately, the main character, played by Danji Buck-Moore, did indeed have a gloriously bushy beard. It was hard not to notice. Roaring waves of laughter quickly overtook the audience as he, through various side comments and blatantly obvious expressions, ranted about how he greatly dislikes Alex Henry.
In one particular scene, one that is extremely hard to forget, the two couples in the play sat on either sides of a movie theatre. Every time Alex Henry would laugh, very awkwardly and obnoxiously at best, the bearded man would respond in kind, but with maniacal malice. It is hard to forget.