Persephone-themed plays, it seems, are like buses: there’s one along every minute. Just as the musical Mythic is wowing audiences at the Segal, here comes another theatrical take on the story of the goddess abducted to the Underworld by Hades.
Persephone Bound, a co-production between Geordie Theatre and Imago Theatre (in association with the wonderfully named Screaming Goats Collective), plays at D.B. Clarke Theatre from Nov. 15 to 24. Directed by Imago’s Micheline Chevrier and aimed at audiences age 13 and older, it features circus artist Léda Davies using a combination of movement and poetic text to bring the ancient myth into the modern world.
An expert in the use of aerial straps, Davies swoops, plummets and writhes as she charts Persephone’s journey through the living hell of a campus party gone wrong and its equally traumatic aftermath.
Persephone Bound is, as Davies explains by phone, unflinching in its focus on the myth’s darker elements.
“In my research of Persephone, I couldn’t find any interpretation of the myth that spoke from her point of view,” she says. “She’s essentially captured by Hades, taken into the Underworld and raped. People seem to justify this as Persephone wanting the power of being Queen of the Underworld. So it began to spin my thinking wheels about how often we excuse assault by people in power simply by saying the person who was assaulted wanted it to happen for some reason.”
Davies, who wrote the piece with Jed Tomlinson (who also provides the percussive soundtrack) and Michaela Jeffery, began thinking about the piece in 2015, pre-MeToo but during the time of such high-profile cases as those of Brock Turner and Jian Ghomeshi. Clearly, Davies’s interpretation of Persephone’s ordeal is a world away from Mythic’s depiction of a charming and consensual romance between the Queen and King of the Underworld. But, she says, she has no problem with that musical’s playful approach to the myth.
“It’s always interesting how these stories want to be told at similar times. There must be some sort of energy or need for us as artists to want to tell the Persephone story right now. We can see how adaptations can take so many different forms. For us, we’re using it to talk about the myth of consent. I think it’s exciting for audiences in Montreal to get a glimpse of the different things we can do with this material.”
AT A GLANCE
Persephone Bound plays from Nov. 15 to 24 at D.B. Clarke Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. Tickets: $21, students and seniors $18. Call 514-845-9810 or visit geordie.ca.
Persephone Bound is just one of the interesting-looking anglo shows playing this month. Here’s a quick roundup of some others.
The Pillowman(Nov. 7 to 17, MainLine Theatre, 3997 St-Laurent Blvd.). A different but no less brutal kind of mythology fuels this darkest of dark comedies from Martin McDonagh, acerbic playwright and Oscar-winning director of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Snowglobe Theatre continues its intrepidly eclectic run with this Olivier Award winner about serial killings and suspiciously similar children’s stories in an unnamed totalitarian state. (514-849-3378; mainlinetheatre.ca)
Den of Thieves. Also playing at MainLine, from Nov. 21 to 24, is this early black comedy by Stephen Adly Guirgis (he of the hit Broadway comedy The Motherf—er With the Hat), from fledgling company Epic Productions. It’s about the bungled burglary of a mobster and the moral quandary over which of the thieves should be sacrificed as payback.
Winter’s Daughter(Nov. 27 to Dec. 8, Segal Studio, 5170 Côte-Ste-Catherine Rd.). Award-winning playwright and actor Michaela Di Cesare is in the cast of this fascinating-looking new piece from Jesse Stong. In 2013, Stong was given the go-ahead to dramatically chronicle the family history of local celebrity barber Gino Chiarella, involving the discovery by an Italian couple of a baby on their doorstep in 1921. Tableau D’Hôte’s followup to its excellent META-winning show Encore. (514-739-7944; segalcentre.org)
All Flesh Is Grass(Nov. 13 to 30, Espace Knox, 6215 Godfrey Ave.). Stacey Christodoulou directs this bilingual collective creation from the Other Theatre, which features four actors sharing the stage with early-music specialists Ensemble Alkemia. A heady mixture of music, dance, debate and Dadaist performance, it promises to be an act of faith in an uncertain world. (othertheatre.com)
Going Up(Nov. 21 to 30, Le 5800 St-Denis, 5800 St-Denis St.). Two strangers — a man with a death wish and a suppressed killer — get trapped in an elevator. What are the chances? Pretty good in this first play from poet Kiki Dranias. The 40-minute “psycho-erotic drama” stars Paul Van Dyck and Kelly Craig, and is actually performed in a working elevator. (purpledivine.com)
Inside(Nov. 19 to 23, Usine C, 1345 Lalonde Ave.). Dimitris Papaioannou made quite an impact at Usine C last winter with his slow-burning, surreal piece The Great Tamer. He returns with an epic video installation locked — with a mixture of Warholian gaze and Hitchcockian voyeurism — onto a minimalist bedroom featuring 30 performers. Is it dance, theatre, a living painting or fancy CCTV? You get six hours to make up your mind, as you can come and go as the mood takes you. (514-521-4493; usine-c.com)
A must-see francophone production opening next week is Fleuve, which plays from Nov. 12 to Dec. 7 at Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, 84 Ste-Catherine St. W. It’s an adaptation of the first in a tetralogy of acclaimed novellas by the formidable Québécois actress Sylvie Drapeau (last seen at TNM playing Nero’s fearsome mother in Racine’s Brittanicus). It has been adapted by Drapeau herself, who also features among the cast, and is directed by Angela Konrad, who has been making some of the most interesting theatre in Montreal over the last few years (including an astonishing production of Michel Garneau’s classic Québécois Macbeth).
A poetic family drama soaked in mythology and religious symbolism, Fleuve is set among the forest shores of the Côte-Nord, where the St. Lawrence meets the sea, and revolves around the death of a child and its devastating impact on his parents and younger siblings. (514-866-8668; tnm.qc.ca)
Another family drama playing in French is Disparu.e.s, a translation of Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County, playing to Nov. 23 at Théâtre Jean-Duceppe of Place des Arts. Directed by René Richard Cyr, fresh from his production of L’homme de la Mancha at Théâtre du Rideau Vert, it’s a brutal comedy-drama set in a dysfunctional Oklahoman household presided over by a pill-popping, foul-mouthed matriarch. (514-842-2112; duceppe.com)