An inventive staging for Grosse-Île 1847

An inventive staging for Grosse-Icirc;le 1847


There are all kinds of ways to tell a story. Émile Proulx-Cloutier found a particularly inventive and effective way to dive into the dramatic history of Grosse-Île. 

On display at La Bordée until November 19, Grosse-Île 1847 recounts the daily life and frustrations of the nursing staff who faced an immense situation when thousands of Irish people leaving the famine found themselves sick while they were on their way to Canada and the United States.

Located in the Isle-aux-Grues archipelago, this quarantine station was, at that time, a must for migrants . We had to make sure they were healthy before they could continue on their way.

The staff present on the Island lacked resources and were quickly overwhelmed by a situation that had gotten out of control. The dead piled up in impossible and trying living conditions. Five thousand people, mostly Irish, died there in 1847.

Émile Proulx-Cloutier delved into the archives of that particularly deadly year to make a collage of everything he found and make a theatrical performance.

At the beginning of the show, when the actors, the archive bearers, begin to bring these words to life, we are a little afraid that it will become too recitative and repetitive in form.


And suddenly, the staging and scenography unfold and take Grosse-Île 1847 to a whole new level. The sound packaging, created by Josué Beaucage and Sarah Villeneuve-Desjardins, is inventive and exceptional.

Through the testimonials that follow one another, actors participate by making sound effects with decorative elements or by delivering moving choruses.

When Hugues Frenette, who personifies Doctor George Douglass, narrates a segment, Nicolas Drolet reproduces the sound of the pencil writing on a page.

Les Vincent Champoux, Nicolas Drolet, Hugues Frenette, Érika Gagnon, Marie-Hélène Gendreau, Elie Saint-Cyr, Véronika Makdissi-Warren and Sarah Villeneuve-Desjardins use the entire playing space. Three-dimensional effects and projection through transparent curtains are superb.

All the play space is used. There are stunning three-dimensional and projection effects through sheer curtains.

We also had the excellent idea of ​​amplifying the voices of the actors. Nothing is lost from the text. On Wednesday during the premiere, the volume was perhaps a bit too high.

Testimonies from archives and newspapers come to life and are exposed through recreated radio newscasts, outtakes of words, dialogues and reconstructions of government meetings.

The segment on the fear of residents of the Saint-Roch district of seeing Irish people arriving in their living environment is topical versus the fear of the arrival of migrants. The one, where we look back on the behavior of the English government at the time, is striking and sheds new light on this famine at the origin of migration.

C is very dense at times. There is a lot of information. There are striking links with the current pandemic. Grosse-Île is a successful proposal and particularly well focused on a reality that many people do not know.