One of the very first productions from the theatre troupe Les Choreutes, this is a solid and promising play from the young artists.
This is the first play I’ve seen from the Festival de la Bête Noire horror theatre festival playing at Mainline theatre. Since I was familiar with the venue I knew to expect a small, cozy setting akin to the Fringe Fest.
A convent is disrupted by the arrival of a strange woman coming in from an incessant downpour which has already been causing unease among the nuns. Her presence will trigger, as is literally announced by a narrator, the beginning of the end.
The stage and costume design, simple and effective, is to be commended. There is an immediate mood set within the first moments, strongly aided by the sound design which, for the first half or so, consists of a constant thunderstorm. The nun’s costumes (I wouldn’t necessarily call them habits) have effectively been designed as all uniformly dark. Along with the set lighting, the use of candlelight is extremely effective.
The acting is uniformly excellent and is the most impressive aspect of the play, especially in its earliest moments. At first it almost seemed as though this was going to be a dialogue-free, highly choreographed physical piece as the opening scene consists of a stylistically staged performance meant to show the sextet of nuns praying. The first interaction is silent, then we realize this is because the character in question, Juliette (Gabrielle Labadie) is either mute or has taken a vow of silence.
What follows is the most interesting and engaging portion of the play as we get to learn of the nuns’ recent plights brought on by the apocalyptic weather, some of their past personal traumas, and the stranger’s (Alma, played by Laurence-Anaïs Belleville in the most impressively physical and dance-oriented performance) past leading up to her arrival at their doorstep.
Once the more overt horror aspects start taking place, things become a bit more standard and somewhat rushed, as much of the action is told instead of shown and much seems to happen quite rushed. The soundtrack also changes from the previous natural sounds to an actual score which though well-done, isn’t as effective as I think it would have been had they kept with what was already established. Can’t fault them for actually having a horror score for a horror play, though.
This is essentially my one gripe against the play, that with such a good, initially well-paced and well-characterized build-up, the main action seems to be missing a lot of weight on its way to the conclusion. At forty-five minutes, it could benefit to have this aspect expanded on and developed for, easily, at least an extra fifteen minutes. We just don’t see the initial chaos brought on by Alma. Nor is the subtext of hunger (or desire) implied by the title and narrator ever fully developed.
That being said, what remains is a thoroughly well-executed, darkly beautiful and moody piece. A bit too brief, but benefitting immeasurably by its talented and memorable performances. I don’t think I was the only one who thought there could have been more to the proceedings as once it was obviously over, everyone around me was still hesitant to get up and leave, as if we were still expecting more. With performances like these aided by a well-conceived vision, the experience still ends up leaving one…sur sa faim.