French play a daring trial affair

It’s not very often one can walk down the street in Calgary and overhear French, let alone understand it. Why is that? Quebec, after all, is just as much a part of Canada as is Saskatchewan, except that perhaps it has more of a fresh and distinctly different culture to offer.

Sage Theatre noticed the lack of French on the street and brought famous Canadian playwright Robert Lepage back to life through his play Polygraph. Lepage has proven his plays are capable of crossing the language barriers through the success of The Dragon Trilogy where 75 per cent of it was spoken in French.

"This is a play of intersection," director Rob Moffatt explains.

"Intersections of culture and the collaborative medium. It’s a combination of expression that goes beyond words."

Although actions do speak louder than words, there are subtitles to help the audience with the French present in 25 per cent of the play. Even more intriguing than the French nature of the play is that Polygraph is based on a true story; strangely, the real life ordeal of Robert Lepage himself.

Lepage has passed on his experience to the character Francois, who remains the suspect of his best friend’s brutal murder six years earlier. The media decides to make a movie about this unresolved murder trial, the lead actress of which starts an affair with the polygraph operator of the real trial, and soon more than lies are detected.

Moffatt feels Polygraph is consistent with Sage’s previous plays of recent years including Bent and Lion in the Streets. Like both, Polygraph is a step closer to unrestrained and audacious live theatre.

"There’s often the perception that seeing shows that have too much risk, harsh language and too much nudity should not be given the commitment of a full production," says Moffatt, also Sage Theatre’s Artistic Director. "We’re filling the shoes of characters and a story that is greater than what we are, and we’re giving voice to an experience that is shared in a community and that reverberates throughout time."

This certainly holds true for other plays done by Sage, including last winter’s Holocaust drama Bent, a vividly memorable play. Moffatt chuckles when asked about the nudity in the play, and relays the experience of getting the cast comfortable with one another’s nudity.

"We knew that it was coming, and we picked the date six weeks into rehearsal, and gradually we would shed clothing for scenes and incorporate more physical improvisation work with one another, so that everyone was trusting and confident," Moffatt says. "When the time came, we went to our own places in the room, played a little Harry Connick Jr. and then before you know it we were whipping off our clothes."

Moffatt felt the importance of reinforcing the all-too-important level of trust and respect with the actors and so he also got naked.

"As a director, why can’t I take the same risks?" he states rhetorically.

Moffatt has proved many times there isn’t much Sage Theatre won’t do in terms of content–they’re known for using shocking material.

"If you want to do a play right, you have to hit every sense that people have," says Moffatt.

Polygraph runs Nov. 30 to Dec. 16 at the Big Secret Theatre.

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