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Friday, June 14, 2024

Theatre review: Des Arbres is simply beautiful

What are we willing to risk in this daunting time of uncertainty?

Théâtre la Seizième’s production of Des Arbres is a translation of Duncan MacMillan’s play Lungs by Benjamin Pradet.  Directed by Benoît Vermeulen, this production is fast paced, hyper-realistic, and simply beautiful.

Carried by two actors (Maxime Denommée and Eveline Gélinas), Des Arbres centres around a young couple and their decision to have (or not have) a child in a time of environmental crisis and global anxiety.

While it is an emotional love story, it is also a story about a generation worrying about what world they are bringing a child into. It is a question that feels very close to home for many adults today.

Denommée and Gélinas speak the natural dialogue at a neck-breaking speed, never stopping for a beat. While this is the way Des Arbes is written, at times it feels neurotic and there is a craving for a pause. The first prolonged break comes via a hug and soft hum-like song, and while much needed, it did not carry through.

Macmillan’s use of time throughout his script is unique, creating moments where we see the passing of time quickly, and moments where time seems to stand still. The staging of these is effective.

A strong script, the natural dialogue creates a casual style to the performance, and is both funny and moving. Because we are able to see both character’s perspectives, what might seem like a simple plot line becomes emotional and challenging.

The production team (Guido Del Fabbro, Ariane Lamarre, Jean-Denis Leduc, and André Rioux) have done a thoughtful job of creating striking moments on a bare stage. The use of light and fog is hauntingly beautiful, and the final image of the sun and silhouette of the couple is a powerful ending.

There were a couple of elements that seemed out of place though, like the use of water. While the production had no set or props, and is performed on a bare stage, the actors each had a bottle of water at the side of the stage which they drank from and then occasionally mimed their use. It is a picky thing, but it was distracting and did not seem fully realized.

Additionally, the idea that you can plant trees and that will somehow counter-act the act of bringing a child into the world seems naïve and idealistic, but maybe that is the point.

At the core of the story is the question of the future, and what we are willing to risk in a daunting time of uncertainty.

Des Arbres, written by Duncan Macmillan. Translated by Benjamin Pradet. Directed by Benoît Vermeulen. A Théâtre la Seizième production, on stage at Studio 16 (1555 West 7th Ave, Vancouver) until May 12 . Visit for tickets and information.

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