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Friday, 20 August 2010

Sheer Pleasure

For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
By Michel Tremblay, Translated by Linda Gaboriau
Directed by Chris Abraham
Featuring Lucy Peacock and Tom Rooney
Photos by David Hou

The story: A narrator returns from his mother’s funeral and becomes immersed in his memories of a funny, loving woman whose flair for dramatic storytelling inspired his career as a writer.

A large diamond of plush, vibrant red carpets the floor, a single table and two chairs near one point. An old record-player churns out tunes from 1950’s Quebec, and a clothesline awaits its laundry. A man enters, his footsteps quiet on the carpet. He looks both sad and ponderous, but not unhappy, and begins to tell us about his mother, Nana.

Within moments a hurricane of a woman storms into the stage and begins a litany of tirades about her kid – the narrator - whose run-in with the police has driven her to near death. And so begins the emotional roller-coaster of For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again.

No need to worry. This is not a dysfunctional relationship, no Oedipal complexes are present. It is merely the author remembering how various points in their relationship came to bear on his own life. There is much laughter, much tenderness, even during moments of stand-off between mother and son.

Tom Rooney is the narrator (right), who is in fact the author of the play. Each entrance of Nana takes him – and the audience – to a different point in time, and to a different point in his relationship with his mother. While it may look like Mr. Rooney is merely staying out of Nana’s way during all her rants, there is great subtlety in the way he reacts – the way he asks the audience to react – to this dynamic, complex woman.

Nana is played by Lucy Peacock (left), in what must be called a virtuoso performance. From her whirlwind first entrance, through her ranting, hilarious monologues, to her wrenching portrayal of a woman struck by cancer, and finally her joyous – yes, joyous! – parting, Ms. Peacock is simply mesmerizing. In one particular monologue about the nature of theatre, she conveys a layperson’s amazement so well it is almost metaphysical in character. It is truly one of the best moments on Stratford’s stages this season.

This autobiographical play, written as a farewell to the author’s mother, is neither saccharine nor bitter. It achieves a fine balance between sadness and laughter, and the actors who perform it delicately dance the line between regret and joy. Short, sweet, and poignant all at the same time, go see For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again for the sheer pleasure of their performances. Tissues are a must for anyone whose mother has passed away, or whose life has been touched by cancer.

It continues in repertory at the Tom Patterson Theatre until September 26th.

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