Quebec Studies

Michel Tremblay's L'Impromptu d'Outremont: Meaning and Mise en scène

Quebec Studies (1983), 1, (1), 191–196.


Michel Tremblay’s L ’Impromptu d’outremont: Meaning and Mise en sckne Elaine R. Hopkins Michel Tremblay’s L ’impromptu d ’Outremont is the first of his works that comments on theater as art. The characters argue over whether art should be popular and functional or elitist and purely esthetic; more specifically, should theater attempt to portray reality with didactic intent or should it be a dazzling diversion from everyday life? I t is clear, in this play even more than in his others, that Tremblay uses art to convey a message, but he does not reject the notion of theater as art. Tremblay and his metteur en sckne, Andrt Brassard, have collaborated to produce plays that are more than pikces d thkse or descriptions of a certain social milieu. The English version of L ’Impromptu d’outremont, given at the Saidye Bronfman Theatre in Outremont in 1981, demonstrates Tremblay’s interest in the theatricality of theater and Brassard’s expertise in expressing this through his mise en sckne. L ’Impromptu d’outremont is a critique through parody of a certain society which has existed, in one form or another, in all periods of history. Outremont is the suburb of Montreal where the francophone and anglophone elite live. This play is unique among Tremblay’s works in that it is the only one that treats upper-class society; most of his other works are set in the colorful east side of Montreal. The action of the play is occasioned by the birthday of the youngest of four sisters, who gather in their dead mother’s house to celebrate each other’s birthdays every year. The title “impromptu” is ironic: each birthday celebration is a repetition of the same parodic ritual. The roles never change, nor do the topics of conversation, which inevitably become subjects for argument. The theme of the play is role-playing, on two levels. The four sisters were taught by their mother to act according to the standards dictated by their

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Author details

Hopkins, Elaine