Internet Shakespeare Editions

Shakespeare in Québec -- page 8

Re-making Le Grand Will

The difficult process of performing Shakespeare in today's Québec is enacted in the 1996 Le Making of de Macbeth, created by the bilingual company Pigeons International. Le Making is about an attempt to - and ultimately the decision not to -- produce Shakespeare's play. It glances at Michel Garneau's 1978 translation of Macbeth into Québécois, Robert Lepage's 1992/93 staging of that translation, and the contemporary cultural environment. As Denis Salter has written, it raises the question of "whether contemporary artists can find ways to speak in many languages and performance modes not for Shakespeare but through him in order to assert their own politics of location" (67).

The play's protagonist is the director, Elizabeth, whose name and character resonate with those of Elizabeth I, and the play juxtaposes the challenge to her authority and artistic creativity with her fear of blood and the possibility of her own pregnancy. However, while Garneau's Macbeth in 1978 implied a Québec that had a coherent cultural, and possibly national, identity, Le Making of de Macbeth insists on the multiplicity of voices, accents, experiences, and performance practices that are part of doing theatre today in Québec. The play's title, for example, whose stumbling redundancy that doubles back on itself suggests a speech impediment, points to the difficulty of finding a language into which to render Shakespeare in a Québec where for many the native language is neither English nor French in an officially francophone milieu, and the play displays, in multiple ways, the difficulty of arriving at a coherent and consensual reading of Shakespeare.

This difficulty, however, has not inhibited a continual engagement with and interrogation of Shakespeare in québécois terms. The relationship of francophone Québec to Shakespeare is perhaps best expressed in the phrase which is often used to describe him: Le grand Will. Shakespeare is asserted to be great. But not so great that William can't be cut down to size. There is intimacy and affection in the shortened name, but also a refusal of the formal conventions of respect. Québécois Shakespeare, as we have seen, has repeatedly been characterized by its freedom, playfulness, audacity, and its insistence on its own politics of location.

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