2 min


Quebec classic reset in Scotland

COMING OF AGE. Tony Nappo and Alastair Hudson star in Michel Tremblay's time-honed Hosana. Credit: Xtra files

A new production of Hosanna? Why not?

Michel Tremblay’s two-actor drama has been a gay classic in French Canada since 1973, and in English Canada a year after that, with numerous revivals.

But actress Wendy Thatcher has found a new reason to produce it: By casting the story’s drag queen/leatherman duo as Scotsmen in the UK, a new translation into vernacular Scots dialogue mirrors the otherness of the French in Canada.

It’s not the first time a Tremblay play has benefitted from this particular cultural shift. A translation of Les Belles Soeurs called The Guid Sisters found instant favour in Scotland and was happily imported to Toronto’s World Theatre Festival several years ago.

Thatcher hit upon doing a Tremblay play in ’97 while studying directing at Drama Studio London. Tremblay’s Albertine In Five Times had just been produced in London, and Thatcher realized that Brit audiences “got” this writer. And she needed a script for her final, professional directing effort in her course.

She had fond memories of the original show starring Richard Monette (now head of the Stratford Festival) when she discovered the Scots translation by Martin Boman and Bill Findlay. Her luck continued as the perfect man to play Hosanna (Alastair Hudson) emerged at auditions.

Now Thatcher has imported the same actor and script to help kick-start the directing side of her theatre career here.

In the show, Hosanna has arrived home from a disastrous Halloween costume ball, where he found humiliation instead of triumph in his Cleopatra get-up. His leatherman lover Cuirette (“Leatherette”) knows something about this debacle, even as he strives to draw Hosanna out of various levels of drag and defences.

Tremblay’s choice of drag for Hosanna was a stroke of brilliance; its blend of camp, history and Liz Taylor-ness has survived, oddly undated. Liz-as-Cleo seems almost noble an icon to aspire to, even as the the low-rent spin makes it funny.

Tremblay says that, a quarter-century later, the overt politics of his work has tended to evaporate, leaving the still-solid human dramas that lie beneath.

Thatcher tends to support this view. “The fact that Scotland wants their independence, as Quebec wants theirs, is kind of secondary. You can’t act that and you can’t direct that.”

She’s especially pleased with the Cuirette she’s found (film and stage actor Tony Nappo, most recently seen in Pills and Motel Hélène]. “When I did it before in London I didn’t get the right guy.

“I don’t think Tony ever thought he was going to play it in Scottish, mind you! He’s working with Alastair, who’s from Glasgow. [Nappo’s] got a really good ear, he’s really sexy and he’s the right age.”

This summer Thatcher will be back at the Shaw Festival, home to her for 16 seasons. She’ll be playing the mother in William Ing’s Picnic. Thatcher, who’s also producing Hosanna, studied directing formally “to give me more confidence. Acting, you’re just worried about yourself; directing, you have to worry about absolutely everything and everybody.

“It’s a bigger challenge and very exciting.”


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