Autour du Lactume
Martin Faucher and Markita Boies, with childlike seriousness – mocking but unfailingly sincere – offer a declaration of affectionate, radiant love for Réjean Ducharme.
Throughout his lifetime, Réjean Ducharme was present while remaining hidden. Such was his fate. Just after his death a new book suddenly appeared straight from his past: Le Lactume, 198 drawings accompanied by very Ducharmian captions. It had been sent to a publisher in 1966 and promptly forgotten. Returned to the writer in 2001, the drawings and captions were published in 2017, intact. And the presence of the wild and crazy 23-year-old Ducharme is palpable, drawing and commenting on his rebellions, observations and daydreams in a Quebec in the throes of social and political upheaval.
A long work table, five piles of drawings, music and, above all, the actress Markita Boies, a favourite of Ducharme. With a childlike seriousness, slightly mocking and unfailingly sincere, just what’s required to enter into Ducharme’s world, Martin Faucher has orchestrated a playful, poetic moment, radiant and affectionate and imbued with great love for life, death, art, beauty and the deceased writer.
Originally produced by éditions du passage
Executive producer Jamais Lu
Drawings and captions Réjean Ducharme
Collage, conceived and directed by Martin Faucher
Texts Réjean Ducharme + Pierre Corneille + Lautréamont + Émile Nelligan + Arthur Rimbaud
Performed by Markita Boies
Lighting Design, Director Assistant and Stage Manager Samuel Patenaude
Video Sandrick Mathurin
Written by Paul Lefebvre
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Presented in association with avec La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines + Festival international de la littérature
Premiered at Festival international de la littérature, on September 23, 2017
Réjean Ducharme + Martin Faucher (Montreal)
More than fifty years after the publication of L’avalée des avalés (1966), followed by the novels Le nez qui voque, L’océantume, La fille de Christophe Colomb and L’hiver de force, the work of Réjean Ducharme has never stopped being read and reread. With narrators whose misdemeanours against language and the world present childhood as a territory of resistance against a life stunted by “adultness”, his novels had a profound impact on Quebec literature and culture.
Also a playwright (Inès Pérée et Inat Tendu and HA ha!…), screenwriter (Les bons débarras and Les beaux souvenirs) and lyricist, Ducharme was truly a poet, but highly suspicious of poems. He died on August 21, 2017 at the age of 76, just as Le Lactume arrived in bookstores.
With his very first show, À quelle heure on meurt?, a collage of works by Ducharme created in 1988, Martin Faucher made his début at the FTA the following year. In 1994 he adapted and staged Ducharme’s La fille de Christophe Colomb with the actress Markita Boies.
Initially trained as an actor, he has directed some forty theatre plays, both original presentations (Jasmine Dubé, Carole Fréchette, Sarah Berthiaume) and works from the classical and contemporary repertoire. He has been co-executive director and artistic director of the FTA since 2014. Autour du Lactume was first presented at the Festival international de la littérature in September 2017 at the initiative of éditions du passage.
What place does the work of Ducharme have in your life and in your art?
Martin Faucher – Réjean Ducharme entered my life early on, via the cultural pages of daily newspapers. As an adolescent in 1976 I was fascinated by a production photo for Inès Pérée et Inat Tendu, and was also intrigued by the reviews for HA ha!… I read L’avalée des avalés at too young an age to understand it, but was captivated by its great thirst for love. It was when I was an acting student that I read Ducharme and recognized myself in his work.
A few years later, in 1988, I put together my first show, opting for the world of Ducharme. À quelle heure on meurt? remains my strongest theatrical experience ever, not so much because it was the first time I was a director, but because of Ducharme’s profound literary universe, a world for which I felt – and still feel – a kinship, a strong connection. I feel at home and at ease with Ducharme, with his appropriation of language and with all those disparate aspects of our culture, from Corneille to Le ranch à Willie.
Le Lactume is a strange object: 198 drawings by Ducharme dating from 1965, each with its own caption and all sent in cardboard boxes to Gallimard, where they were promptly forgotten. They were returned to the author in 2001 and published in 2017, arriving in bookstores four days after he died. How is that theatrical?
M.F. – Le Lactume is a veritable plunge into Ducharme’s work. The drawings and texts bear the vigour of a 23-year-old living in Montreal in the mid-60s when Quebec society was changing radically. Ducharme is both inside and on the outside looking in, living like a recluse and strolling through the city as though it were a forest, sensitive to big and little things. He was a great romantic, in love with the idea of love, in love with death, a rebellious young man who impulsively made drawings in Prismacolor.
The piece gives off an aura of feverish all-nighters. I wanted to define what I felt about Ducharme, his way of life, his desire for purity, how disheartened he was with American capitalism. Fragments of his sources of inspiration and his reading (Nelligan, Lautréamont, Rimbaud) provided a glimpse into his approach. I wanted to merge the creativity of the young Ducharme with the literary material that stimulated his writing.
How can we reconcile his energy, a man who celebrated life, with his profound pessimism? There are so many people today, both young and old, who also feel that way. I wanted to find the essence and the caustic humour of a spirited 23-year-old, but what emerges from Autour du Lactume is, dare I say it, an impertinent elegance.
The piece was first presented at the Festival international de la littérature in September 2017. What was the impetus for this project?
M.F. – The idea was to create a event that would highlight the book launch. After his death I was told that Ducharme had approved the project with one caveat: “Great! Just don’t forget that it’s funny!”
In late July 2017 I received Le Lactume and began to transcribe the captions one by one, in chronological order, and it was then that something mysterious occurred. I was immediately plunged into the same creative fervour I experienced when putting together À quelle heure on meurt? And here was Ducharme again – his energy, his mix of Quebec and European references, his themes: love, friendship, popular culture, social criticism, writing.
Then I created a new order for the titles, and when Markita read them in mid-August we plunged back into the same pleasure we had with La fille de Christophe Colomb. We were back in the turmoil of the 1960s: the Mille Mille of Nez qui voque became Ducharme’s alter ego; L’océantume led us to Chants de Maldoror. The combination of the nonchalant with serious discourse led us to Rimbaud. And there was also the music, baroque or pop it didn’t matter, that Ducharme liked, from Françoise Hardy to Chopin and Jefferson Airplane. And silence. And dance.
I was in Europe in late August when I heard that Ducharme had died. I was distraught. Given that the project was well advanced, we were spared pressure to pay posthumous tribute, but his death did of course add another level of meaning to the event, a whimsical seriousness.
« Il s’avère tout à fait naturel que [l’]œuvre [de Réjean Ducharme] se conclue à la croisée du littéraire et du graphique, entre le dit et le non-dit, dans un univers profondément bigarré. »
Shelbie Dubois, Artichaut Magazine, 2017-10-02
« Le Lactume est peut-être une nouvelle clé de l’univers de Ducharme. »
Chantal Guy, La Presse, 2017-08-30
« L’ultime oeuvre de l’écrivain fantomatique. »
Fabien Deglise, Le Devoir, 2017-08-26
« Le Lactume vient éclairer une autre facette de [l’]âme [de Réjean Ducharme]. »
Jean Philippe Cipriani, L’Actualité, 2017-08-23