For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again

By Michel Tremblay, translated by Linda Gaboriau
Performed by Louise Pitre and Joe Matheson
Directed by Susan Ferley
Grand Theatre, London
February 6 to 24, 2007
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

A Simple Story about a Colourful Relationship

When the narrator steps on the stage and tells the audience that it’s not going to be a big impressive show – he stresses that this is not Shakespeare, not Beckett, not Chekhov, nor Tennessee Williams – we sink back and are lulled into thinking it will be an effortless evening. But then Nana bursts onto the stage, and we realize that we are going to be well entertained, and we are going to learn more than if we were sitting through classical theatre.

Not only do we have Michel Tremblay’s intelligent script, capably translated into English, but we also have brilliant actors in the Grand’s current production of For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again. Tony-nominated Louise Pitre plays Nana, the mother, while Pitre’s husband, Joe Matheson, has the part of the narrator/son, in Tremblay’s autobiographical tale. Pitre proves she’s both a comedic and dramatic actor, and that she’s obviously much more than just her amazing singing voice. She is best known for her lead role in Mamma Mia, both in Toronto and on Broadway. Pitre and Matheson have good chemistry for obvious reasons, and they are able to translate it very well into this moving story of a mother-son relationship.

For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again could be viewed as nothing more than Tremblay reminiscing about his mother. The narrator, who is, of course, Tremblay himself, leads the audience to believe he is just going to tell us a few stories about his mom. He steps back into the scene and immediately becomes a 10-year-old boy facing his angry mother, who is upset that the police have come looking for him. She exaggerates his misdemeanour and keeps the audience laughing as she acts out the horrors that his minor mischief might have created.

Tremblay shares more memories when he is 13, and his mother has offered him her melodramatic novels from France to read. When the young boy questions the lack of reality in the novels, his mother goes to great extent to defend the books, again with much humour.

And thus the play moves along, with Tremblay simply relating funny stories about his mother. And then suddenly the audience realizes that this is much more than just sharing memories through flashbacks. We are being given an amazing glimpse into the making of an artist. His mother, this housewife who is locked into her position by the patriarchal and religious Quebec of the 1950’s, is actually shaping one of Canada’s best and most prolific authors and playwrights. Her melodramatic ways of raising her son, her creative imagination in telling him the stories of their family, her wonderful sense of humour, and her passion for books and movies have made him who he is. Her pride and love of her son, although not always spoken, is always present. But maybe it has taken retrospection for him to see it.

All the humour dissipates towards the end of the one-act show. He is only 21 and his mother is dying of cancer. Despite the sorrow, there is a wonderful surprise ending which cannot be revealed here, for fear of spoiling the production for future audiences.

Pitre captures the French-Canadian accent flawlessly, adding to it an endearing stance and comic gestures. Her energy on stage is captivating. Matheson grows with each flashback—he’s perfect as the fidgeting 10-year-old, right through to the frightened 21-year-old, as he casts his mind back. Director Susan Ferley deserves credit for leading the two characters through their lives’ journey. John Dinning’s sets are very well done, and again that’s all that can be said in order not to reveal too much.

The play itself is brilliant, and Pitre and Matheson are brilliant in it. Every mother and her child will see something of themselves and be touched by it. The audience is taken on an emotional ride, and judging by the immediate standing ovation on opening night, we were moved by it, and loved every minute.

For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again continues at the Grand Theatre in London until February 24. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593.


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