From the desire for absolute self-assertion in Kafka

In 1980, then a young actor leaving UQAM, Claude Poissant played in the choir ofMetamorphosis, an adaptation by director Alexandre Hausvater. “It was the first role of Marc Béland, who was in a giant spider’s web,” he recalls. Since then, the desire to put together this “absolutely trippy” story had remained with him. The show was first to be presented last winter, the only survivor of the original Théâtre Denise-Pelletier programming. After all, how can you be more in tune with this confined period than with the story of a young man reclusive in his room, isolated following a transformation as unexpected as it is radical?

The director and artistic director, to whom his entourage often pointed out that he no longer wrote – for lack of time – decided to take up the pen himself. “It was a great pleasure, I missed writing a lot. Even if it is no small task to tackle a masterpiece. Claude Poissant praises the richness of this work which depicts the mysterious mutation of Gregor into a large insect, to the terror of his family. “You realize that depending on the angle you place yourself – and that’s what makes this character so timeless – there could be so many possible visions of Gregor. And depending on the front doors, its deep nature moves. “

And we always ask ourselves the question, he says, of knowing if Gregor, locked in a constraining existence, “chooses to transform himself, if his unconscious is doing that.” To end up being in an almost more interesting posture in the difference. And provoke in others a reflection on this difference, and even their own metamorphosis. “

If we can project many interpretations on this transformation, “at the base, it is a character whose created universe does not correspond any more to the standards of a society. It is a revolt against a system. And probably the strength of the work is also to remain in ambiguous areas. Kafka finds a balance between what is familiar to us and what is strange. We have the impression that Gregor is close to us, and yet he is loathsome to us. It is this pleasure to be in the strangeness. Sometimes the world appears far away to us, and as we take a step, there is suddenly a recognition, something that attracts us and makes it possible to escape what we don’t like. “


The creator wanted to bring the story written by the Prague writer in 1912 closer to our time. He transposed it to a period he “felt he understood”. And to do this, he went back to his childhood. “I am a little shy, compared to those who tell their life story and do autofiction,” he reveals. They are very courageous; me, I keep a certain embarrassment. But I find that the theater allows things to be transposed. So I entered the universe with my brother, my parents in mind. “

And the beginning of the 1960s, with the death of Duplessis, was a time when Quebec itself was undergoing a metamorphosis, coming out of its conventional shackles. “There is a kind of authoritarianism that falls and suddenly, a Quiet Revolution that will bring us to a liberation. It is a sensitive moment. And I saw that era transform throughout the 1960s, having very intense business in my family. “

Without telling his personal drama – mentioned in his text If you die, I kill you in 1993 -, the author wanted to invent a world which upset him through what he had lived. “It just allowed me emotional personal references, but also references to that time for the public, leads in the production, the costumes. While being careful not to fix the story too precisely in a time and place, to remain in the ambiguity imposed by Kafka.

It was a great pleasure, I missed writing a lot

Poissant shifted the narration from “he” to “I”, so with a more direct involvement from Gregor. “I told the whole story, but I took enormous liberties. Between the basic diagram, I allowed myself to make sort of zigzags, sometimes, in all kinds of emotions, from dramatic to humorous. “

If he “leaves all the doors open” to this fable, the adapter sees in it a “desire for absolute self-assertion. Whether in relation to leaving the family, leaving childhood. Get rid of the grip of injuries and deaths around you. Gregor makes an extreme choice – not knowing if he came from the outside or if he was the one who provoked it. But from the moment he is in it, he tries to find little joys in it. Even imagining that he will soon die, disappear, he will at least have lived these little hopes that make it possible as a human being, alone, sometimes to get out of these obligations around you, which are sometimes collective, but not always satisfactory. A sort of illustration of resilience, then.

This thirst for assertion resonates strongly with an adolescent audience. Not to mention the feeling of alienation. “That’s why I wanted to go up Metamorphosis since I have been at Denise-Pelletier. Adolescence is a period when we want to escape from so many things that have been fabricated by others, our parents, our teachers. Besides, it’s a surreal story. And if there is one stage in life where surrealism calls us, it is precisely this. “

Everyone’s bug

Its adaptation is also based on the principle that on stage, the public will “invent the form of the cockroach. I just need to bring it to life in the viewer’s imagination. And for that, I don’t just use the storytelling, but all the fiction with the family, and the presence of the bedroom. It was her writing challenge: “to succeed in creating in each person’s head the bug they want and that they have the impression of having seen it”.

The character of Gregor will rather display an allure which “almost approaches the look of Kafka ”. The director chose the actor Alex Bergeron, his interpreter of Great Listen and Hurlevents, very early in the process. “He’s physical, he’s literary, he’s charismatic. And if he has very generous opinions, I can ask him anything, he will try it with absolute confidence. He’s also a bookseller at Port de tête, so he’s read more about Kafka than I have! “

Claude Poissant wanted to print a “tense frame” of a thriller on his show. With this production performed by five performers and AlterIndiens to Fred-Barry, the director of the TDP feels the satisfying impression of deploying a start to the season where “we are going” at last, after a year of uncertainty and prudence.

He had to give up, on the other hand, a show he was to create during the fall of 2020, re-defined: Own loves is on the tablet. This collage of love scenes by various authors, “pushing the absurd” out of the context of distancing, had been designed for the occasion. “Shows have a reason to exist at a specific time. And to bring out this one, we would have to find a good reason. However, we loved him, it was great what the actors did. A mourning, of not being able to share the object on which one has worked. “But where the victory is, is that it made a lot of people work, who made a living during a period when it was hard to win it. “


Based on the work of Franz Kafka. Text and direction: Claude Poissant. With Geneviève Alarie, Alex Bergeron, Myriam Gaboury, Alexander Peganov and Sylvain Scott. At the Théâtre Denise-Pelletier, from September 22 to October 16.

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