A comfortable setting for experimentation

A highlight of this year’s OFFTA was thanks to “Nous ne serons pas vieux mais deja gras de vivre”, a piece that was in residence and performed at Usine C. Anne-Marie Ouellet and Thomas Sinou are writers, performers and founders of L’eau de bain, a company that pushes the boundaries of conventional theatre and performance.

It starts with an intercom. You are greeted by a chirpy voice that tells you to come up to the third floor and after following a series of arrows taped to wall, you walk into a space that feels like someone’s apartment. A friendly man named Thomas offers you a beer, some water or a Mr.Freeze, and tells you to make yourself comfortable. Nous ne serons pas vieux, mais déjà gras de vivre has already discreetly begun.

The setting is unconventional for a show. We sit in the space of the performance, surrounded by dozens of giant post-its scattered on the walls with small notes, existential questions, poetry. There is an office filled with music equipment, a bedroom, a coffee table, and a TV. The ambiance is relaxed, stripped of the formalities of the usual spectator/actor roles. Everything is designed for you to feel comfortable, but there is a general sense of discomfort in the room. People aren’t used to this.

It’s rare to have such a proximity to the performers…we are immersed in the world of a young couple who are distant and detached. The woman, Anne-Marie, talks to us nervously, rewinds her tape recorder and plays random bits of recordings, rewinds again, repeats. It is not clear which moments are improvised, but some text is clearly pre-written; poetic and deep. We watch her fail to communicate to Thomas. She insults him and reaches out to be heard, challenged, or acknowledged. Next to her with an electric guitar and an elaborate music equipment, he drones her out with his own sense of isolation. He doesn’t seem to hear her as he mixes music out with the background noise- cars passing, an egg cracking and the buzz of the refrigerator. We, the witnesses, watch him stay aloof to her extremism. He barely reacts as she runs out of the building and we see her standing outside in the middle of the street, screaming at him on the TV screen. A second time, she runs outside and lays out on the pavement, waiting for him to notice.

The example of these two people shows us parallel realities – Anne-Marie questions everything from her research on infanticide. Her doubts on her capacity to be a mother, life and death. Thomas casually prepares himself some eggs and stays uninvolved, disinterested. We are invited to walk around the room and answer the questions on the walls, such as, Are you more afraid to die or grow old? People wander around the room, lost in thought and for some,

When we realize it’s over, some people applaud but it feels inappropriate. It feels less like a show than as if we just went to visit an old friend, shared thoughts and got lost in unanswerable questions, and now it’s time to be normal again. nd go on with our evening

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