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Monday, February 7, 2011

The Upstage Interview: Annabel Soutar

The Upstage Interview is a weekly feature at CharPo and is a result of The Charlebois Post's partnership with Upstage: Theatre on Radio on CKUT.

CKUT Upstage contributor Alison Louder conducted an interview with Playwright Annabel Soutar. Below is an abridged version of the interview transcribed by Estelle Rosen, CharPo Editor-in-Chief.

Sept. 30, 2006. Laval: the de la Concorde overpass collapses. A multi-million dollar public inquiry is held, negligence is identified but nobody is held responsible. 
A story behind a story. 

After meeting some of the victims, we found out that it had been classified as a car accident. Victims were badly compensated. 

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Sexy Béton l’intégrale is such a case. A documentary play written by Annabel Soutar based on interviews with people involved in the de la Concorde overpass collapse. Porte Parole is the only troupe in Quebec strictly dedicated to the creation and production of documentary theatre. Upstage contributor Alison Louder spoke with Annabel Soutar. She began by asking about the background.

“Creating this trilogy was a wild creation process. Began as a documentary almost written in real time. As the script was being finished, it took a turn in the middle of it. Thought it was going to be an investigation into the past: why did it collapse, who was responsible and so forth. After meeting some of the victims, we found out that it had been classified as a car accident. Victims were badly compensated. Hard to understand the logic -  because not one person could be held responsible nobody could be held responsible. Under no fault insurance, anything that happens in a car is classified as an accident. Almost as a way for the government to avoid taking responsibility. During the process, we asked the victims why weren’t they doing anything about it.  They were shattered by the experience; and feeling disempowered. We put them in touch with lawyer Julius Gray who was willing to take on this case pro bono. Suddenly we were involved in a very interesting story. Part 2 & 3 follows them in real time; can we fight the powers that be and how are we going to do that.” 

Alison commented that what most of us didn’t know is that actors Maude Laurendeau-Mondoux and Brett Watson had interviewed these individuals. She asked about how actors are integral to a documentary play.

“We had asked them to be involved from the beginning. They jumped on the opportunity. We knew it would bring more depth to the piece if actors had that commitment to real people involved. Watching them on stage they become involved in the dilemma of whether they were doing the right thing. They had to ask themselves, is our role as actors to expose this or to get involved. That hadn’t been decided when one of the women asked Maude if she was going to play her. She answered yes I think so. The decision then was almost made by character. When we presented part 2, there was a public discussion afterwards moderated by former Quebec judge John Gomery. Two of the victims asked him what can we do to ensure it won’t happen again. Gomery suggested creating a public story and embarrass the government for not having reacted properly. He suggested a petition would be ideal.” 

Just before the end of the interview, Soutar said they had just two hours earlier found out the petition had been registered online at National Assembly and could be found at National Assembly website under Pétition De La Concorde. She suggested anyone interested should sign the petition. The petition states that in if there were ever any casualties from infrastructure failure it should never be classified as an accident, it should be properly recognized and properly compensated.

“We feel the play has managed to inspire the victims. We are now hoping there will be some sense of closure for this tragedy.”

Sexy Béton l’intégrale will be presented at Salle Fred-Barry, Théatre Denise-Pelletier Feb. 9 to 26.

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