Les Belles Soeurs Background

Les Belles Soeurs Background

Michel Tremblay decided to turn his play Les Belles-soeurs into a revolutionary statement in that most revolutionary of years, 1968. The year that saw spring uprisings in Paris was also the year Canadian audiences saw the very first production of a play written in joual instead of classical French. Tremblay’s characters in Les Belles-soeurs in the dialect of the Quebec common man. French traditionalism was definitely coming under fire in 1968 and Tremblay’s concerted decision to replace the alienating French tradition signaled a turning point in French-Canadian drama while also becoming yet another addition to the French-Canadian separatism movement which had been consistently gaining strength throughout the 1960’s.

Les Belles-soeurs also explores the existential theme of absurdism within its construct as part of an artistic movement known as the “theatre of liberation.” Working class housewives navigate their way through the banality of a party to discover the meaningless of existence through a series of monologues spoken with vernacular immediacy in their joual dialect. The repetitive nature of the absurdity of modern existence is underscored by the technique of choral odes.

In 1973 a production was mounted in Paris that went on to win awards for Best Foreign Play of the Year. Although translated into working class Scots dialect, Tremblay put the kibosh on an English version until the separatist party victory in the 1976 elections.

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