ArtsAlive.ca – Persuading Presence
image:Tour the Collection With guest curator Scott McKowen

Tour the Collection
With guest curator Scott McKowen

image:Saison 1992-1993 du Theatre Francais image:Durocher Le Milliardaire image:Le Salon de l'anti-monde image:En attendant Godot image:National Capital

Collage and Series

image:Les Feluettes image:Maîtres Anciens

Nolin Larosée designed a “family look” for French Theatre’s 1992/93 season with a hugely inventive series of collage illustrations. The images have a strong surrealist flavour. They remind me of the photomontages of Hannah Höch (1889-1978), the only female member of the Berlin Dada movement. The illustrations illuminate each play individually.

A comic portrait for En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot) (1993) is formed by a clock face, a boot, and a carrot – all references from Beckett’s text. The absurd kitsch comedy of Robert Gravel’s Durocher le Milliardaire (1993) comes across immediately from this lopsided expression, the whiskey-bottle nose, the tiny plane circling the cloud-filled cranium, and a pair of fencers standing on the author’s name. For Jean Marc Dalpé’s satirical National Capitale Nationale (1993), a tightly corseted female figure is formed by an inverted maple leaf and twin engravings of the Peace Tower for legs. The flags look like two tiny feet!

All these elements are recombined into a crazy full-length figure for the season poster, titled À vous de jouer (Your turn to play). But the really impressive accomplishment here is how the series of posters reinforces brand identity for the theatre over the entire season. The consistency of graphic style and layout means that each new poster increases awareness of the others. It’s a shrewd marketing strategy!

Michel Marc Bouchard's Les Feluettes (Lilies) (1989) is a play-within-a-play. Two boys at a Catholic college in 1912 fall in love while working on Gabriele D’Annunzio’s play The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. Their relationship comes into conflict with the religious and moral values of the school, and ends in tragedy. Resolution comes only decades later when secrets about the affair are finally revealed. The iconic poster, designed by Lumbago, melds themes of the sacred, the secular, and the homoerotic in a breathtaking montage of historical art images and pulp clip art.

Maîtres Anciens (Old Masters) was written by the Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard four years before his death in 1989. Groping his way through a depression, an intellectual music scholar visits an art museum every day to sit in front of the same painting by Tintoretto. Denis Marleau adapted this difficult and enthralling “fugue of despair and recovery” for the stage in 1995; the poster image itself is a painting showing the stark, deserted gallery in which the story unfolds in shades of grey. The minimal type design gives the poster an appropriately contemporary edge without crowding the somber illustration.