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Monday, December 19, 2011

The Upstage Interview: Manon Beaudoin on Queen of Hearts (WildSide)

Patient Doctor Nurse Patient...
Upstage and Charlebois Post contributor Sarah Deshaies spoke with playwright Manon Beaudoin about Queen of Hearts presented as part of WildSide Festival. Below is an abridged version edited by Estelle Rosen, CharPo editor-in-chief.

One of the darker stories in this year’s Festival Is Queen of Hearts. Tell us about this story.

The evacuation of a town in Lebanon during the 2005 bombing was reported in The Globe & Mail. That story became the basis for this play. For some reason, a psychiatric hospital wasn’t evacuated, leaving the mental patients on their own. A few nurses stayed behind to take care of them.

A week later when people returned, they didn’t know who was insane and who wasn’t because the nurses were stealing medication from the patients to deal with their exhaustion, hunger, and dehydration. I use that as a trampoline for my story. 

One of the nurses is trapped in a room for seven days with a patient who thinks she’s a doctor and tries to cure the nurse. The two women stranded together create a friendship at the same time. 

At the start of the play, the nurse gets stabbed with a fork to the heart.  A fork flew into  my heart, she says. As the nurse weakens, everything she says is surreal.

Dealing with the fine line between sane and insane, it’s a fragile and beautiful story with a tinge of dark comedy. We’ve presented this play in Toronto; audience responded well; they found it a touching play.

...who do you save in case of an emergency and who do you forget. Why were those women forgotten.

What was it about the story that made you want to write about it?

Our company is clown-based. To me it sounded like a clown based story. I find newspapers the best way to find stories; can’t beat real life. Also, I had always wanted to do an adaptation of King of Hearts, an old movie set in France where a town was evacuated. This seemed a perfect mix of both.

Do you think you’re telling a story that happens in areas of conflict that we don’t get to hear about? 

What I like about the story is – who do you save in case of an emergency and who do you forget. Why were those women forgotten.  Sad because one of them really believes someone will come and save her. I find that people who suffer from mental problems are also forgotten in our system. I’m interested to know what the trigger is for mental illness.

Though it seems like a heavy piece, it’s actually  rather delicate and profound with  lots of funny bits. Using clowns allows the possibility to keep the story upbeat.

The Upstage Interview returns Mon. Jan. 9.

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