Explore Bilingual Boundary-Pushing Theatre

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Explore Bilingual Boundary-Pushing Theatre

Two new pieces use both of Canada's official languages to explore the challenges of connection.

Sascha Cole and Frédéric Lemay in HROSES. photo by Svetla Atanasova.

Sascha Cole and Frédéric Lemay in HROSES. photo by Svetla Atanasova.


Two shows isn’t quite enough to constitute a trend, but nevertheless, bilingual theatre patrons have choices currently on Toronto stages—though make no mistake, English-only patrons won’t have any difficulty.

Five Faces For Evelyn Frost is in the final week of their English run. Originally written in French by Quebecois playwright Guillame Corbeil, it’s been translated into English by Toronto theatre artist Steven McCarthy, and the cast is performing it first in English, and later in March, for a week in the original French (with English subtitles). It’s a very current composition that’s clearly inspired by social media narcissism, with the cast first describing their basic info and likes in direct address to the audience, then going into more detail about a series of projected “selfies” describing an, at first banal, then increasingly ludicrous, night out. It’s a discomfiting but unique theatrical experience. And less a condemnation of “kids today” then a Black Mirror-style look at the temptation to use technology for unhealthy obsessions.

Jill Connell’s HROSES, on the other hand, feels more timeless, less of our time; indeed, the space the show is being staged at, an industrial warehouse tucked between Richmond and Adelaide, will disappear soon, to be replaced by (what else but) condos. This is her follow-up play to 2015’s The Supine Cobbler, which we mentioned as one of that year’s best new Canadian plays. And while Connell is directing her own work, she’s enlisted some unorthodox collaborators for HROSES: dancer and choreographer Tedi Tafel and Francophone actor and writer Mirelle Mayrand-Fiset. The result is both bilingual throughout (there’s subtitles for unilingual patrons), and poetic in movement as well as prose; a love (and loss) story between an Anglophone farm girl (Sasha Cole) and a Francophone miner (Frédéric Lemay). Connell’s expressive writing makes a clear narrative elusive, and the focus is on the lover’s emotional responses to each other, over plot. There’s a makeshift whisky bar for before and after the performance, and the opportunity to see an unusual space that, like the play and its affair, will cease to exist in all but memory soon.


HROSES runs To March 4, Waterworks (505 Richmond Street West), Tuesday – Friday, 8 p.m., Saturday, 6 p.m. & 9:30 p.m., $15-$20.

Five Faces For Evelyn Frost runs to March 5 in English, and March 21-25 in French with English subtitles, Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street), Tuesday-Thursday & Saturday, 8 p.m., Friday, 7 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m., $15-$69.


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Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled theatre artist Steven McCarthy’s first name. Torontoist regret the error.

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