Marguerite de la Rocque de Roberval, a French nobleman fits the description of what someone whose name shall go unnamed would label a “nasty woman”. She was abandoned by her uncle, who had set out to Canada to help colonize it, on a remote island off the coast of Newfoundland, for her sexual indiscretions in a shipboard romance. Elle survived two winters before finally being rescued. She was then taken back to France where she lived out her life with the memory of her uncle’s cruel judgment haunting her.
This story became a legend. When Severn Thompson discovered the Governor-General Award winning novel Elle, written by Douglas Glover, she was determined to bring it to the stage. “His exploration of this story was so inventive and the character itself that he created – there was something about her humor, and the fact that she was written as quite a misfit …She’s not perfect by any means, but her imperfection makes her quite human and relatable”, Thompson said in a recent Georgia Straight interview with Andrea Warner. Thompson plays the role of Marguerite in her Dora Mavor Moore award-winning stage adaptation of Elle, currently playing at the Firehall. In the play, Thompson explores Glover’s text with passion, humor and physical nuance. In this re-telling she is supported by Jonathan Fisher as Itsik, an indigenous man who discovers her as he is seeking his own redemption and an evocative production design by Jennifer Goodman.
It seems alarming now that someone would have been punished so harshly for engaging in consensual sex and yet “We’re still going through that, “Thompson says connecting the puritanical values of the 1500’s to today. “What I love about her is she can’t help herself. She does have some sense of guilt for religious reasons, but she has such a strong drive to live and to explore her sexuality and everything. She’s very impulsive and it’s interesting to see somebody like that. That’s kind of coded as a headstrong girl, which is still the case, right? Well, ‘headstrong’ is the nicest label, but still, there’s all these labels that women get, you know. ‘She’s so opinionated, she’s so …’ People are very quick to label, dismiss and destroy if they can.”
Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate this NASTY WOMEN – ELLE playing at the Firehall until February 18th, 2017.