On The ROC And Le P'tit Québec
The dangers of villagery
By Gaëtan L. Charlebois
A Facebook friend of mine made a surprising statement this week. "What happens in the ROC doesn't interest me."
ROC, for those of you who are from the ROC, is what people in Quebec call, mostly pejoritively, the Rest Of Canada. (In French they don't even need the "Rest of" - we're Quebec, you're Canada.) The use of the term signifies two beliefs: that Quebec doesn't care about Canada and that Canada doesn't care about Quebec. There may be a grain of truth in this and that depresses the hell out of me.
The ongoing battle is what makes Britain as a country great and also, let's say it, a little rural.
It reminds me of The Little Britain syndrome - the hard-headed British belief that they don't need anyone else (specifically Europe and its new-fangled Union). The British who consider themselves Europeans are frowned upon by LBers, and vice versa. The ongoing battle is what makes Britain as a country great and also, let's say it, a little rural. They do, of course, have a culture they can be very proud of - especially a magnificent theatre tradition - but in a world of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, many are starting to realize it is a culture that can also be insular and even, sometimes, airless.
Culture does not grow without air and the air of culture is influences, exchange and curiosity.
I am in the minority when I suggest Cirque du Soleil has become bloated and tedious
In Quebec we argue that Canadian culture is too American. I would argue - and have argued - that Quebec culture is too Quebec. I have been raked over the coals for saying that our theatre has a certain aesthetic sameness, I am in the minority when I suggest Cirque du Soleil has become bloated and tedious, and I may be the only critic who doesn't feel the need to rush to see the latest gizmo-heavy Robert Lepage show. I answered my friend - and his ROC comment - by saying I would trade L'Opéra de Montréal for the COC in a heartbeat if only so I could see something new from time to time instead of the steady Verdi/Puccini diet we get here.
But I have travelled this country as well - if not from sea to shining see then from the Gulf to the Rockies - and I have seen Quebec-style insularity expressed elsewhere. In Edmonton there was a great resistance to anything from The East (as if we were sending unwelcome Magi to kidnap their Baby Jesus). In Toronto it is hard to find French spoken, even by government agencies, and I have followed seasons of plays where magnificent works from this side of the world were only seen in glimpses.
For every list of wondrous things I could name in each province, there is a list of examples which seem small-town to me.
What I am trying to say, before everyone in the nation gets on its high-horse, is that we need to stop being Little Canada and Little Quebec. It is - in a word which I so love - provincial. For every list of wondrous things I could name in each province, there is a list of examples which seem small-town to me. I will never understand the popularity of lotto shows in Quebec, nor of Little Mosque on the Prairie in the ROC. But I don't understand, either, why ROC doesn't seem as delighted by a series like Minuit, le soir nor why Quebec can't get beyond the standard-issue Italian/French repertoire in opera.
You know what works? Everywhere? The Fringe. You go to the Fringe with your eyes and heart open and will take whatever from wherever. I see that same spirit of openness in the small companies around the country: Tableau d'Hote and Quat'Sous here, OYR and Praxis in the ROC (to name four of hundreds).
Let's not be Little Canada or P'tit Québec. Let's talk.
(NOTE: I am refraining, this week, from commenting on the PR fiasco that is Richard Rose v. Michael Healey at Tarragon Theatre because the story is developing. Stay tuned.)