Closing out their first #BeyondTO festival, Theatre Passe Muraille presents this Théâtre Everest production of Bâtardes. This French term for “illegitimate children” resonates with the fraught identity the play explores. Created by sisters Chloé and Jade Barshee, this production is performed in French with English surtitles.
Properly reviewing this piece is problematic as so much of it was not accessible to me. Certainly, there are elements of stagecraft that are beautiful to behold and evoke feelings of mystery, tension and celebration. Following the spoken words, however, was difficult. The surtitles—at a significant distance from the action—are so small and quick, I had no hope of keeping up.
From the supplemental material, I went in knowing that it was autobiographical and understood the conceptual elements. Born of a Tibetan father and Québecoise mother, Chloé and Jade explore their complex identity by knitting together monologues, family video footage and fanciful design elements.
Sarah-Jeanne Doré’s set is a couple of interlocking panels. On their textured surfaces, William Couture projects the video footage—intimate family moments from when the sisters were very young and a more recent trip to Tibet. This Tibet trip in particular showcases dazzling imagery of the mountain range. Coloured flags pulled from the set extend outward as if elements of this documented memory have manifested on stage.
Confronting racism from other children at school, the sisters conjure a horned monster to represent that trauma. As potentially frightening as this large creature is, there is also an element of wonder and play in Jonathan Léo Saucier whimsical design—a mass of colourful strings that make up its entire, yak-like body.
The outfit itself is impressive enough, but Mathieu Beauséjour also manages to work within the confines of the massive costume to convey a variety of different aspects. The dynamic between him and the sisters is intriguing.
Because of the language barrier, though, so much of this was lost on me. I struggled to stay focused, to fully appreciate the artistry and intention, but failed. French speakers will likely connect more easily to Bâtardes than I could.