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Sameness and difference in Les Belles-surs: A Canadian spectator's reflections on two Polish productions of Michel Tremblay's play

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The viewing of two Polish productions of Qubcois playwright Michel Tremblay's play Les Belles-surs gives rise to a reflection on the ways in which foreign reception can change theatrical works, both through translation into another language and through the physical othering of performance and staging. At the heart of Tremblay's play, in which a million trading stamps bring a fleeting vision of material happiness to a Montreal working-class housewife and send a gathering of other women into paroxysms of jealousy, is condensed a particular experience of poverty and a lived relationship between that poverty and consumerism. These very different Polish productions, occurring seven years apart, at different moments in the post-Communist era, represent two diverse attempts to imagine not only a more or less distant, more or less understood North American socio-cultural phenomenon, but also the impact of emerging consumerism in a rapidly changing Polish society. In the imagining of the other is implied a re-imagining of self. For the Canadian spectator, the experience of viewing these two productions, comparing them and reflecting on them over an extended period of time, has yielded insights into an evolving feat of cross-cultural imagining, as well as a heightened awareness of the consumerism at the centre of the belles-surs' universe, a new appreciation of the power of Tremblay's stamps to signify.

Keywords: Michel Tremblay, Les Belles-surs; Polish reception; consumerism; cross-cultural imagining; performance and staging; translation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Dalhousie University.

Publication date: 2010-10-01

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