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Moncton Sable

Collectif Moncton Sable was created in Moncton in 1996 by lighting designer and teacher Louise Lemieux and several of her graduates from the Université de Moncton drama program, among them Philip André Collette, Lynne Surette, Amélie Gosselin and Karène Chiasson. Their earliest works were Moncton Sable, [sand] -- the origin of the company’s name (1997); Craie [chalk] (1999); and Foin [hay] (2000), all created over long periods of time during which they worked in close collaboration with the writer France Daigle and musicians (Jean-Marie Morin and Jean Surette) to explore the full poetic dimensions of the material in question. The productions were scenically stunning, wrapping the entire theatre in the material being explored (25 tons of sand, hundreds of bales of hay, or multi-coloured chalk that was used through the performance to cover virtually the entire acting space with figures, lines and words). The plays were structured very loosely, organized more in terms of filmic image than by narrative line.

In 2005 Moncton Sable brought two productions to the stage: Linoléum and Alors, tu m’aimes, which continued to expand the experimental approach of the company. The first was a text by Paul Bossé which wove together several time periods and explored the revelation of past mysteries linked to the gradual uncovering of layers of flooring in a Moncton apartment by its current occupants. The other, by first-time playwright Monique Snow, introduced four young actors (Annie LaPlante, Brigitte LeBlanc, Anika Lirette and Marie-Pierre Valay-Nadeau) newly graduated from the Université de Moncton. Like most Moncton Sable productions, Alors, tu m’aimes was more lyrical than narrative, more evocative than definitive. Built around the theme of love, the fragments or parts of fragments often repeated in later moments with different intonation and different contexts (the actors each played a variety of roles only identified by numbers in the script).

From the beginning the members of Moncton Sable have dedicated themselves to doing theatre differently, which means everything from the adamantly non-hierarchical structure of their company to a creative process that emphasizes collaborative improvisation and exploration. Journalists and others have struggled to label the work of Moncton Sable with a list of adjectives that speaks to the complexity and sophistication of the company: “théâtre de sens,” “théâtre de l’étrangeté,” “théâtre d’atmosphère,” “théâtre expérimental,” “théâtre innovateur” and “théâtre postmodern.” Founding company members Collette and Gosselin believe that “théâtre de recherche” best describes their emphasis on process and their interest in exploring the possibilities of theatrical expression beyond the traditional text-based approach to theatre.

From its inception, Collectif Moncton Sable has seen itself in terms of freedoms: freedom from the structures they see as inhibiting institutional theatre companies from real experimentation and creativity, freedom from the traditional boundaries of text, improvisation, actor, artist etc., freedom to create with a view to developing process over product, and finally freedom for the audience to be challenged by their productions and to build their own meaning from what they see. As Philip André Collette explains, “There is no right or wrong way to read, see or listen to a Moncton Sable show. Enjoy the performance and draw your own conclusions.” Finally, and perhaps most importantly in this context is the freedom they feel from having to construct an explicit Acadian identity. When asked about this, Amélie Gosselin said, “At Moncton Sable there is never any question about Acadian identity. We’re making theatre. True we are Acadian; it is Acadian theatre because it is Acadians who are creating it, but there is no taking of sides or making a statement; it is not political.”

Further reading: Canadian Theatre Review 128 (Fall 2006).

Profile by Glen Nichols, Université de Moncton

Last updated 2009-09-09